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Full text of "The Harvard classics Volume 25"

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ST. MICHAEL'S COLLEGE 

TORONTO, CANADA 



LIBRARY 




PRESENTED BY 
J. J. McKnight 



THE HARVARD CLASSICS 



The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 



EDIT 



John Stuart Mill 

Autobiography 
'= m Liberty 

8f 
3 

o 

Thomas Carlyle 

Characteristics 
Inauaral Addix 



on Scott 

W///j Introductions a, 

j> 

volume 25 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 



THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 



John Stuart Mill 

Autobiography 
Essay on Liberty 

Thomas Carlyle 

Characteristics 

Inaugural Address 

Essay on Scott 

W/'/A Introductions and Notes 
Volume 25 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 
NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1909 
BY P. F. COLLIER & SON 

MANUFACTURED IN U. S. A. 




MAY 22 1963 



CONTENTS 

BY JOHN STUART MILL 
AUTOBIOGRAPHY JOHN STUART MILL PAGE 

CHAPTER I 7 

CHAPTER II 29 

CHAPTER III 43 

CHAPTER IV . 58 

CHAPTER V 85 

CHAPTER VI 116 

CHAPTER VII 138 

ON LIBERTY 

CHAPTER I 195 

CHAPTER II 210 

CHAPTER III 250 

CHAPTER IV 270 

CHAPTER V 290 

BY THOMAS CARLYLE 
CHARACTERISTICS 319 

INAUGURAL ADDRESS AT EDINBURGH 359 

SIR WALTER SCOTT . . 393 






INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

JOHN STUART MILL was born in London, May 20, 1806. He was the 
eldest of the nine children of James Mill, the chief disciple of Bentham 
and one of the most important leaders in the Utilitarian movement in 
England. J. S. Mill as a child was almost incredibly precocious. He 
began Greek at three, and by the time he was eight had read such 
authors as Herodotus and Plato in the original, besides such English 
historians as Gibbon and Hume. At twelve he was studying logic 
"seriously"; at thirteen he went through a complete course in political 
economy which his father gave him in conversation during their walks, 
and the summaries he made of these talks were the basis of James Mill's 
treatise on this subject. These and other intellectual feats will be found 
related in the "Autobiography," not in a spirit of boastfulness, but in 
support of more profitable educational methods. 

So far young Mill had been educated entirely by his father; but when 
he was fourteen he was sent to France for a year, where he mastered 
the language, learned much of French society and politics, and con- 
tinued his studies in mathematics, economics, and science. In 1823 he 
entered (the India House as a clerk in the examiner's office, of which 
his father was the head; rose rapidly, and finally succeeded to his 
father's position as chief examiner. 

His official labors left him considerable leisure, which he employed 
with the industry that had been habitual with him almost from infancy. 
He wrote for the papers, helped his father on the "Westminster Re- 
view," and, before he was twenty, edited Bentham's "Treatise on Evi- 
dence." His first original work of importance was his "Essays upon 
Unsettled Questions of Political Economy," written when he was about 
twenty-four, but not published till 1844. 

In religion, Mill had been brought up an agnostic, and, in philosophy, 
a utilitarian of the school of Bentham; but after a nervous illness in 
1836, he began to be dissatisfied with the high and dry intellectualism 
of his father's circle. He "learnt that happiness was to be found not in 
directly pursuing it, but in the pursuit of other ends; and learnt, also, 
the importance of a steady cultivation of the feelings." He had already 
a wide acquaintance among the most active minds in London, and some 
of these, like F. D. Maurice and John Sterling, aided in the process of 
humanising Mill's philosophy. He became a disciple of Wordsworth's 



4 INTRODUCTION 

and a friend of Carlyle's; and a second visit to France still further helped 
to broaden his views and sympathies, more especially through the in- 
fluence of the St. Simonian school and Comte. Important also among 
the friendships which affected his development was that with Mrs 
Taylor, an invalid lady of whose intellectual powers Mill had the most 
exalted opinion, and whom he ultimately married. 

In 1835, the "London Review," later combined with the "Westminster 
Review," and for a time owned by Mill, was started as the organ of the 
"philosophical radicals"; and till he gave it up in 1840 he wrote much in 
it on political and literary topics, and sought to make it an influence in 
practical politics. But the party it represented fell for the time into 
obscurity, and Mill resumed his logical studies, which culminated in 
1843 in the publication of his "Logic." This work, which met with 
great and immediate success, established Mill as the leader of the empiri- 
cal school of thought in England, and it holds its position still as a 
standard work on the subject. 

His interest now passed for the time to economics, and within five 
years he issued his "Principles of Political Economy," a treatise which 
stands on the political side, as his "Logic" does on the philosophical, as 
the representative statement of the principles of the school of philosophi- 
cal radicalism. Much in its teaching is still regarded by economists as 
valuable, and the book ranks as perhaps the most important systematic 
treatise on the subject since "The Wealth of Nations." 

In 1858 the East India Company was dissolved, the administration of 
India being taken over by the English Government, and Mill retired on 
a pension. The same year his wife died, just after completing with her 
husband the revision of his famous "Essay on Liberty." In this book, 
along with his "Representative Government" (1860) and his "Utili- 
tarianism" (1861) one may find an exceedingly compact presentation 
of his views on the most important questions of social and political 
philosophy. His function with regard to the Utilitarian doctrines in 
which he had been trained by his father was that of broadening and ele- 
vating the conception of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" 
as the true end of human conduct, by the recognition of difference of 
quality among pleasures, and by the addition of a new sanction for 
altruism in a "feeling of unity with his fellow creatures" which makes 
it a "natural want" of a person of "properly cultivated moral nature" 
that his aims and theirs should harmonize. With the rise of the evolu- 
tionist school on the one hand and the spread of the doctrines of Kant 
and his successors on the other, the influence of Mill's philosophy has 
declined. 



INTRODUCTION 5 

Mill's philosophical activity culminated in his searching "Examination 
of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy," originally published in 1865, 
and reissued later with replies to critics. In this work he reviewed 
thoroughly all the main points of difference between the empirical and 
the intuitional schools; and though, with the shifting of issues in the 
progress of philosophic thought, the controversy has now died down, the 
criticism remains an interesting and lively example of Mill's acuteness 
and skill as a controversialist. 

So far Mill's part in politics had been confined to the writing of 
pamphlets and articles, but in 1865 he was elected to Parliament as 
member for Westminster. In spite of a weak voice and a nervous man- 
ner, he impressed the House by his fluency and exactness in speech, and 
by his honesty and independence of judgment. He favored the extension 
of the franchise, and the reform of the Irish land laws; and he argued in 
favor of a number of projects which long after his time were carried into 
effect. When Parliament dissolved in 1868, he was not re-elected. 

He now returned to literature, writing frequently in the "Fortnightly 
Review," then edited by his friend John Morley; and in 1869 he issued 
his "Subjection of Women," in the production of which both his wife and 
his step-daughter had had a share. During his Parliamentary career he 
had urged the granting of the voting power to the other sex, and this 
work is still a standard plea for the rights of women. His health now 
began to give way, and he died on May 8, 1873. 

Although the dominant impression conveyed by the record of Mill's 
life in his candid and interesting "Autobiography" is one of intellec- 
tuality, he was a man of high sensibility and of a tender and affectionate 
nature. The purity of his motives, the vigor of his thinking, and the 
energy and independence with which he strove for the realization of his 
ideals, had their effect not merely on the large circle with whom he 
came into personal contact, but in the stimulating and elevating of the 
general intellectual and moral life of his time. 

It is as the story of such a man's life, told by himself when it was 
about six years from its close, that his "Autobiography" is here printed. 
The "Essay on Liberty" has an interest of a different kind. It belongs 
to ihat splendid series of pleas for intellectual freedom, which, begin- 
ning with Milton's "Areopagitica," or speech for the Liberty of Un- 
licensed Printing, and coming down through Locke's "Letters con- 
cerning Toleration" to the utterances of Mill himself and his friend and 
fellow liberal Morley, form the literary expression of the gradual real- 
ization of the passion for individual freedom which is one of the 
glories of the English-speaking peoples. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 
JOHN STUART MILL 

CHAPTER I 
CHILDHOOD AND EARLY EDUCATION 

IT seems proper that I should prefix to the following biographical 
sketch, some mention of the reasons which have made me think 
it desirable that I should leave behind me such a memorial of 
so uneventful a life as mine. I do not for a moment imagine that 
any part of what I have to relate, can be interesting to the public as 
a narrative, or as being connected with myself. But I have thought 
that in an age in which education, and its improvement, are the 
subject of more, if not of profounder study than at any former period 
of English history, it may be useful that there should be some record 
of an education which was unusual and remarkable, and which, 
whatever else it may have done, has proved how much more than is 
commonly supposed may be taught, and well taught, in those early 
years which, in the common modes of what is called instruction, are 
little better than wasted. It has also seemed to me that in an age 
of transition in opinions, there may be somewhat both of interest 
and of benefit in noting the successive phases of any mind which was 
always pressing forward, equally ready to learn and to unlearn 
either from its own thoughts or from those of others. But a motive 
which weighs more with me than either of these, is a desire to make 
acknowledgment of the debts which my intellectual and moral 
development owes to other persons; some of them of recognised 
eminence, others less known than they deserve to be, and the one to 
whom most of all is due, one whom the world had no opportunity 
of knowing. The reader whom these things do not interest, has only 
himself to blame if he reads farther, and I do not desire any other 

7 



JOHN STUART MILL 

indulgence from him than that of bearing in mind, that for him 
these pages were not written. 

I was born in London, on the 20th of May, 1806, and was the 
eldest son of James Mill, the author of the History of British India. 
My father, the son of a petty tradesman and (I believe) small 
farmer, at Northwater Bridge, in the county of Angus, was, when 
a boy, recommended by his abilities to the notice of Sir John Stuart, 
of Fettercairn, one of the Barons of the Exchequer in Scotland, and 
was, in consequence, sent to the University of Edinburgh, at the 
expense of a fund established by Lady Jane Stuart (the wife of Sir 
John Stuart) and some other ladies for educating young men for 
the Scottish Church. He there went through the usual course of 
study, and was licensed as a Preacher, but never followed the pro- 
fession; having satisfied himself that he could not believe the doc- 
trines of that or any other Church. For a few years he was a private 
tutor in various families in Scotland, among others that of the Mar- 
quis of Tweeddale, but ended by taking up his residence in London, 
and devoting himself to authorship. Nor had he any other means of 
support until 1819, when he obtained an appointment in the India 
House. 

In this period of my father's life there are two things which it is 
impossible not to be struck with: one of them unfortunately a very 
common circumstance, the other a most uncommon one. The first 
is, that in his position, with no resource but the precarious one of 
writing in periodicals, he married and had a large family; conduct 
than which nothing could be more opposed, both as a matter of good 
sense and of duty, to the opinions which, at least at a later period 
of life, he strenuously upheld. The other circumstance, is the ex- 
traordinary energy which was required to lead the life he led, with 
the disadvantages under which he laboured from the first, and with 
those which he brought upon himself by his marriage. It would have 
been no small thing, had he done no more than to support himself 
and his family during so many years by writing, without ever being 
in debt, or in any pecuniary difficulty; holding, as he did, opinions, 
both in politics and in religion, which were more odious to all per- 
sons of influence, and to the common run of prosperous English- 
men in that generation, than either before or since; and being not 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 9 

only a man whom nothing would have induced to write against his 
convictions, but one who invariably threw into everything he wrote, 
as much of his convictions as he thought the circumstances would 
in any way permit: being, it must also be said, one who never did 
anything negligently; never undertook any task, literary or other, 
on which he did not conscientiously bestow all the labour necessary 
for performing it adequately. But he, with these burdens on him, 
planned, commenced, and completed, the History of India; and 
this in the course of about ten years, a shorter time than has been 
occupied (even by writers who had no other employment) in the 
production of almost any other historical work of equal bulk, and 
of anything approaching to the same amount of reading and re- 
search. And to this is to be added, that during the whole period, 
a considerable part of almost every day was employed in the 
instruction of his children in the case of one of whom, myself, he 
exerted an amount of labour, care, and perseverance rarely, if ever, 
employed for a similar purpose, in endeavouring to give, according 
to his own conception, the highest order of intellectual education. 
A man who, in his own practice, so vigorously acted up to the 
principle of losing no time, was likely to adhere to the same rule 
in the instruction of his pupil. I have no remembrance of the time 
when I began to learn Greek, I have been told that it was when I 
was three years old. My earliest recollection on the subject, is that 
of committing to memory what my father termed vocables, being 
lists of common Greek words, with their signification in English, 
which he wrote out for me on cards. Of grammar, until some 
years later, I learnt no more than the inflexions of the nouns and 
verbs, but after a course of vocables, proceeded at once to translation; 
and I faintly remember going through ^Esop's Fables, the first 
Greek book which I read. The Anabasis, which I remember better, 
was the second. I learnt no Latin until my eighth year. At that 
time I had read, under my father's tuition, a number of Greek 
prose authors, among whom I remember the whole of Herodotus, 
and of Xenophon's Cyropaedia and Memorials of Socrates; some 
of the lives of the philosophers by Diogenes Laertius; part of Lucian, 
and Isocrates ad Demonicum and Ad Nicoclem. I also read, in 
1813, the first six dialogues (in the common arrangement) of Plato, 



IO JOHN STUART MILL 

from the Euthyphron to the Theoctetus inclusive: which last dia- 
logue, I venture to think, would have been better omitted, as it was 
totally impossible I should understand it. But my father, in all 
his teaching, demanded of me not only the utmost that I could do, 
but much that I could by no possibility have done. What he was 
himself willing to undergo for the sake of my instruction, may be 
judged from the fact, that I went through the whole process of 
preparing my Greek lessons in the same room and at the same 
table at which he was writing: and as in those days Greek and 
English lexicons were not, and I could make no more use of a 
Greek and Latin lexicon than could be made without having yet 
begun to learn Latin, I was forced to have recourse to him for the 
meaning of every word which I did not know. This incessant 
interruption, he, one of the most impatient of men, submitted to, 
and wrote under that interruption several volumes of his History 
and all else that he had to write during those years. 

The only thing besides Greek, that I learnt as a lesson in this 
part of my childhood, was arithmetic: this also my father taught 
me: it was the task of the evenings, and I well remember its dis- 
agreeableness. But the lessons were only a part of the daily instruc- 
tion I received. Much of it consisted in the books I read by myself, 
and my father's discourses to me, chiefly during our walks. From 
1810 to the end of 1813 we were living in Newington Green, then 
an almost rustic neighbourhood. My father's health required con- 
siderable and constant exercise, and he walked habitually before 
breakfast, generally in the green lanes towards Hornsey. In these 
walks I always accompanied him, and with my earliest recollections 
of green fields and wild flowers, is mingled that of the account I 
gave him daily of what I had read the day before. To the best of 
my remembrance, this was a voluntary rather than a prescribed 
exercise. I made notes on slips of paper while reading, and from 
these in the morning walks, I told the story to him; for the books 
were chiefly histories, of which I read in this manner a great 
number: Robertson's histories, Hume, Gibbon; but my greatest 
delight, then and for long afterwards, was Watson's Philip the 
Second and Third. The heroic defence of the Knights of Malta 
against the Turks, and of the revolted Provinces of the Netherlands 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY II 

against Spain, excited in me an intense and lasting interest. Next 
to Watson, my favourite historical reading was Hooke's History 
of Rome. Of Greece I had seen at that time no regular history, 
except school abridgements and the last two or three volumes of a 
translation of Rollin's Ancient History, beginning with Philip of 
Macedon. But I read with great delight Langhorne's translation of 
Plutarch. In English history, beyond the time at which Hume 
leaves off, I remember reading Burnet's History of his Own Time, 
though I cared little for anything in it except the wars and battles; 
and the historical part of the "Annual Register," from the beginning 
to about 1788, where the volumes my father borrowed for me from 
Mr. Bentham left off. I felt a lively interest in Frederic of Prussia 
during his difficulties, and in Paoli, the Corsican patriot; but when 
I came to the American war, I took my part, like a child as I was 
(until set right by my father), on the wrong side, because it was 
called the English side. In these frequent talks about the books I 
read, he used, as opportunity offered, to give me explanations and 
ideas respecting civilization, government, morality, mental cultiva- 
tion, which he required me afterwards to restate to him in my own 
words. He also made me read, and give him a verbal account of, 
many books which would not have interested me sufficiently to 
induce me to read them of myself: among others, Millar's Historical 
View of the English Government, a book of great merit for its 
time, and which he highly valued; Mosheim's Ecclesiastical His- 
tory, McCrie's Life of John Knox, and even Sewell and Rutty's 
Histories of the Quakers. He was fond of putting into my hands 
books which exhibited men of energy and resource in unusual cir- 
cumstances, struggling against difficulties and overcoming them; 
of such works I remember Beaver's African Memoranda, and Col- 
lins's Account of the First Settlement of New South Wales. Two 
books which I never wearied of reading were Anson's Voyages, so de- 
lightful to most young persons, and a collection ( Ha wkes worth's, I 
believe) of Voyages Round the World, in four volumes, beginning 
with Drake and ending with Cook and Bougainville. Of children's 
books, any more than of playthings, I had scarcely any, except an 
occasional gift from a relation or acquaintance: among those I had, 
Robinson Crusoe was pre-eminent, and continued to delight me 



12 JOHN STUART MILL 

through all my boyhood. It was no part, however, of my father's 
system to exclude books of amusement, though he allowed them 
very sparingly. Of such books he possessed at that time next to 
none, but he borrowed several for me; those which I remember 
are the Arabian Nights, Gazette's Arabian Tales, Don Quixote, Miss 
Edgeworth's Popular Tales, and a book of some reputation in its 
day, Brooke's Fool of Quality. 

In my eighth year I commenced learning Latin, in conjunction 
with a younger sister, to whom I taught it as I went on, and who 
afterwards repeated the lessons to my father: and from this time, 
other sisters and brothers being successively added as pupils, a 
considerable part of my day's work consisted of this preparatory 
teaching. It was a part which I greatly disliked; the more so, as I 
was held responsible for the lessons of my pupils, in almost as 
full a sense as for my own: I, however, derived from this disci- 
pline the great advantage, of learning more thoroughly and re- 
taining more lastingly the things which I was set to teach: perhaps 
too, the practice it afforded in explaining difficulties to others, may 
even at that age have been useful. In other respects, the experience 
of my boyhood is not favourable to the plan of teaching children by 
means of one another. The teaching, I am sure, is very inefficient 
as teaching, and I well know that the relation between teacher and 
taught is not a good moral discipline to either. I went in this 
manner through the Latin grammar, and a considerable part of 
Cornelius Nepos and Caesar's Commentaries, but afterwards added 
to the superintendence of these lessons, much longer ones of my own. 

In the same year in which I began Latin, I made my first com- 
mencement in the Greek poets with the Iliad. After I had made 
some progress in this way, my father put Pope's translation into my 
hands. It was the first English verse I had cared to read, and it 
became one of the books in which for many years I most delighted : 
I think I must have read it from twenty to thirty times through. 
I should not have thought it worth while to mention a taste ap- 
parently so natural to boyhood, if I had not, as I think, observed 
that the keen enjoyment of this brilliant specimen of narrative and 
versification is not so universal with boys, as I should have expected 
both a priori and from my individual experience. Soon after this 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 13 

time I commenced Euclid, and somewhat later, Algebra, still under 
my father's tuition. 

From my eighth to my twelfth year, the Latin books which I 
remember reading were, the Bucolics of Virgil, and the first six 
books of the ^Eneid; all Horace, except the Epodes; the Fables of 
Phaedrus; the first five books of Livy (to which from my love of 
the subject I voluntarily added, in my hours of leisure, the re- 
mainder of the first decade); all Sallust; a considerable part of 
Ovid's Metamorphoses; some plays of Terence; two or three books 
of Lucretius; several of the Orations of Cicero, and of his writings 
on oratory; also his letters to Atticus, my father taking the trouble 
to translate to me from the French the historical explanations in 
Mingault's notes. In Greek I read the Iliad and Odyssey through; 
one or two plays of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, though 
by these I profited little; all Thucydides; the Hellenics of Xenophon; 
a great part of Demosthenes, ^Eschines, and Lysias; Theocritus; 
Anacreon; part of the Anthology; a little of Dionysius; several 
books of Polybius; and lastly Aristotle's Rhetoric, which, as the first 
expressly scientific treatise on any moral or psychological subject 
which I had read, and containing many of the best observations 
of the ancients on human nature and life, my father made me 
study with peculiar care, and throw the matter of it into synoptic 
tables. During the same years I learnt elementary geometry and 
algebra thoroughly, the differential calculus, and other portions 
of the higher mathematics far from thoroughly: for my father, not 
having kept up this part of his early acquired knowledge, could 
not spare time to qualify himself for removing my difficulties, and 
left me to deal with them, with little other aid than that of books; 
while I was continually incurring his displeasure by my inability to 
solve difficult problems for which he did not see that I had not the 
necessary previous knowledge. 

As to my private reading, I can only speak of what I remember. 
History continued to be my strongest predilection, and most of all 
ancient history. Mitford's Greece I read continually; my father 
had put me on my guard against the Tory prejudices of this writer, 
and his perversions of facts for the whitewashing of despots, and 
blackening of popular institutions. These points he discoursed on, 



14 JOHN STUART MILL 

exemplifying them from the Greek orators and historians, with 
such effect that in reading Mitford my sympathies were always on 
the contrary side to those of the author, and I could, to some extent, 
have argued the point against him: yet this did not diminish the 
ever new pleasure with which I read the book. Roman history, 
both in my old favourite, Hooke, and in Ferguson, continued to 
delight me. A book which, in spite of what is called the dryness 
of its style, I took great pleasure in, was the Ancient Universal 
History, through the incessant reading of which, I had my head 
full of historical details concerning the obscurest ancient people, 
while about modern history, except detached passages, such as the 
Dutch War of Independence, I knew and cared comparatively 
little. A voluntary exercise, to which throughout my boyhood I 
was much addicted, was what I called writing histories. I suc- 
cessively composed a Roman History, picked out of Hooke; an 
Abridgment of the Ancient Universal History; a History of Holland, 
from my favourite Watson and from an anonymous compilation; 
and in my eleventh and twelfth year I occupied myself with writing 
what I flattered myself was something serious. This was no less 
than a History of the Roman Government, compiled (with the 
assistance of Hooke) from Livy and Dionysius: of which I wrote 
as much as would have made an octavo volume, extending to the 
epoch of the Licinian Laws. It was, in fact, an account of the 
struggles between the patricians and plebeians, which now engrossed 
all the interest in my mind which I had previously felt in the mere 
wars and conquests of the Romans. I discussed all the constitutional 
points as they arose: though quite ignorant of Niebuhr's researches, 
I, by such lights as my father had given me, vindicated the Agrarian 
Laws on the evidence of Livy, and upheld, to the best of my ability, 
the Roman Democratic party. A few years later, in my contempt 
of my childish efforts, I destroyed all these papers, not then anticipat- 
ing that I could ever feel any curiosity about my first attempts at 
writing and reasoning. My father encouraged me in this useful 
amusement, though, as I think judiciously, he never asked to see 
what I wrote; so that I did not feel that in writing it I was account- 
able to any one, nor had the chilling sensation of being under a 
critical eye. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 15 

But though these exercises in history were never a compulsory 
lesson, there was another kind of composition which was so, namely, 
writing verses, and it was one of the most disagreeable of my tasks. 
Greek and Latin verses I did not write, nor learnt the prosody of 
those languages. My father, thinking this not worth the time it 
required, contented himself with making me read aloud to him, 
and correcting false quantities. I never composed at all in Greek, 
even in prose, and but little in Latin. Not that my father could be 
indifferent to the value of this practice, in giving a thorough knowl- 
edge of these languages, but because there really was not time for it. 
The verses I was required to write were English. When I first read 
Pope's Homer, I ambitiously attempted to compose something of 
the same kind, and achieved as much as one book of a continuation 
of the Iliad. There, probably, the spontaneous promptings of my 
poetical ambition would have stopped; but the exercise, begun from 
choice, was continued by command. Conformably to my father's 
usual practice of explaining to me, as far as possible, the reasons 
for what he required me to do, he gave me, for this, as I well 
remember, two reasons highly characteristic of him: one was, that 
some things could be expressed better and more forcibly in verse 
than in prose: this, he said, was a real advantage. The other was, 
that people in general attached more value to verse than it deserved, 
and the power of writing it, was, on this account, worth acquiring. 
He generally left me to choose my own subjects, which, as far as 
I remember, were mostly addresses to some mythological personage 
or allegorical abstraction; but he made me translate into English 
verse many of Horace's shorter poems: I also remember his giving 
me Thomson's "Winter" to read, and afterwards making me attempt 
(without book) to write something myself on the same subject. 
The verses I wrote were, of course, the merest rubbish, nor did I 
ever attain any facility of versification, but the practice may have 
been useful in making it easier for me, at a later period, to acquire 
readiness of expression. 1 I had read, up to this time, very little 

1 In a subsequent stage of boyhood, when these exercises had ceased to be com- 
pulsory, like most youthful writers I wrote tragedies; under the inspiration not so 
much of Shakspeare as of Joanna Baillie, whose "Constantine Paleologus" in par- 
ticular appeared to me one of the most glorious of human compositions. I still 
think it one of the best dramas of the last two centuries. 



1 6 JOHN STUART MILL 

English poetry. Shakspeare my father had put into my hands, 
chiefly for the sake of the historical plays, from which, however, I 
went on to the others. My father never was a great admirer of 
Shakspeare, the English idolatry of whom he used to attack with 
some severity. He cared little for any English poetry except Milton 
(for whom he had the highest admiration), Goldsmith, Burns, and 
Gray's Bard, which he preferred to his Elegy: perhaps I may add 
Cowper and Beattie. He had some value for Spenser, and I re- 
member his reading to me (unlike his usual practice of making me 
read to him), the first book of the Faerie Queene; but I took little 
pleasure in it. The poetry of the present century he saw scarcely 
any merit in, and I hardly became acquainted with any of it till I 
was grown up to manhood, except the metrical romances of Walter 
Scott, which I read at his recommendation and was intensely de- 
lighted with; as I always was with animated narrative. Dry den's 
Poems were among my father's books, and many of these he made 
me read, but I never cared for any of them except Alexander's Feast, 
which, as well as many of the songs in Walter Scott, I used to sing 
internally, to music of my own: to some of the latter, indeed, I 
went so far as to compose airs, which I still remember. Cowper's 
short poems I read with some pleasure, but never got far into the 
longer ones; and nothing in the two volumes interested me like 
the prose account of his three hares. In my thirteenth year I met 
with Campbell's poems, among which Lochiel, Hohenlinden, The 
Exile of Erin, and some others, gave me sensations I had never 
before experienced from poetry. Here, too, I made nothing of the 
longer poems, except the striking opening of Gertrude of Wyo- 
ming, which long kept its place in my feelings as the perfection 
of pathos. 

During this part of my childhood, one of my greatest amusements 
was experimental science; in the theoretical, however, not the prac- 
tical sense of the word; not trying experiments a kind of discipline 
which I have often regretted not having had nor even seeing, but 
merely reading about them. I never remember being so wrapt up 
in any book, as I was in Joyce's Scientific Dialogues; and I was 
rather recalcitrant to my father's criticisms of the bad reasoning 
respecting the first principles of physics, which abounds in the 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY IJ 

early part of that work. I devoured treatises on Chemistry, especially 
that of my father's early friend and schoolfellow, Dr. Thomson, 
for years before I attended a lecture or saw an experiment. 
From about the age of twelve, I entered into another and more 
advanced stage in my course of instruction; in which the main object 
was no longer the aids and appliances of thought, but the thoughts 
themselves. This commenced with Logic, in which I began at once 
with the Organon, and read it to the Analytics inclusive, but profited 
little by the Posterior Analytics, which belong to a branch of 
speculation I was not yet ripe for. Contemporaneously with the 
Organon, my father made me read the whole or parts of several 
of the Latin treatises on the scholastic logic; giving each day to 
him, in our walks, a minute account of what I had read, and answer- 
ing his numerous and searching questions. After this, I went in a 
similar manner, through the "Computatio sive Logica" of Hobbes, 
a work of a much higher order of thought than the books of school 
logicians, and which he estimated very highly; in my own opinion 
beyond its merits, great as these are. It was his invariable practice, 
whatever studies he exacted from me, to make me as far as possible 
understand and feel the utility of them: and this he deemed pecu- 
liarly fitting in the case of the syllogistic logic, the usefulness of 
which had been impugned by so many writers of authority. I well 
remember how, and in what particular walk, in the neighbourhood 
of Bagshot Heath (where we were on a visit to his old friend Mr. 
Wallace, then one of the Mathematical Professors at Sandhurst) he 
first attempted by questions to make me think on the subject, and 
frame some conception of what constituted the utility of the syllo- 
gistic logic, and when I had failed in this, to make me understand 
it by explanations. The explanations did not make the matter at 
all clear to me at the time; but they were not therefore useless; they 
remained as a nucleus for my observations and reflections to 
crystallize upon; the import of his general remarks being inter- 
preted to me, by the particular instances which came under my 
notice afterwards. My own consciousness and experience ultimately 
led me to appreciate quite as highly as he did, the value of an early 
practical familiarity with the school logic. I know of nothing, in 
my education, to which I think myself more indebted for whatever 



1 8 JOHN STUART MILL 

capacity of thinking I have attained. The first intellectual operation 
in which I arrived at any proficiency, was dissecting a bad argument, 
and finding in what part the fallacy lay: and though whatever 
capacity of this sort I attained, was due to the fact that it was an 
intellectual exercise in which I was most perseveringly drilled by 
my father, yet it is also true that the school logic, and the mental 
habits acquired in studying it, were among the principal instru- 
ments of this drilling. I am persuaded that nothing, in modern 
education, tends so much, when properly used, to form exact 
thinkers, who attach a precise meaning to words and propositions, 
and are not imposed on by vague, loose, or ambiguous terms. The 
boasted influence of mathematical studies is nothing to it; for in 
mathematical processes, none of the real difficulties of correct ratio- 
cination occur. It is also a study peculiarly adapted to an early 
stage in the education of philosophical students, since it does not 
presuppose the slow process of acquiring, by experience and re- 
flection, valuable thoughts of their own. They may become capable 
of disentangling the intricacies of confused and self-contradictory 
thought, before their own thinking faculties are much advanced; 
a power which, for want of some such discipline, many otherwise 
able men altogether lack; and when they have to answer opponents, 
only endeavour, by such arguments as they can command, to sup- 
port the opposite conclusion, scarcely even attempting to confute 
the reasonings of their antagonists; and, therefore, at the utmost, 
leaving the question, as far as it depends on argument, a balanced 
one. 

During this time, the Latin and Greek books which I continued to 
read with my father were chiefly such as were worth studying, not 
for the language merely, but also for the thoughts. This included 
much of the orators, and especially Demosthenes, some of whose 
principal orations I read several times over, and wrote out, by way 
of exercise, a full analysis of them. My father's comments on these 
orations when I read them to him were very instructive to me. He 
not only drew my attention to the insight they afforded into 
Athenian institutions, and the principles of legislation and govern- 
ment which they often illustrated, but pointed out the skill and art 
of the orator how everything important to his purpose was said at 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 19 

the exact moment when he had brought the minds of his audience 
into the state most fitted to receive it; how he made steal into their 
minds, gradually and by insinuation, thoughts which, if expressed 
in a more direct manner, would have roused their opposition. Most 
of these reflections were beyond my capacity of full comprehension 
at the time; but they left seed behind, which germinated in due 
season. At this time I also read the whole of Tacitus, Juvenal, and 
Quintilian. The latter, owing to his obscure style and to the 
scholastic details of which many parts of his treatise are made up, 
is little read, and seldom sufficiently appreciated. His book is a 
kind of encyclopaedia of the thoughts of the ancients on the whole 
field of education and culture; and I have retained through life 
many valuable ideas which I can distinctly trace to my reading of 
him, even at that early age. It was at this period that I read, for 
the first time, some of the most important dialogues of Plato, in 
particular the Gorgias, the Protagoras, and the Republic. There is 
no author to whom my father thought himself more indebted for 
his own mental culture, than Plato, or whom he more frequently 
recommended to young students. I can bear similar testimony in 
regard to myself. The Socratic method, of which the Platonic 
dialogues are the chief example, is unsurpassed as a discipline for 
correcting the errors, and clearing up the confusions incident to the 
intellectus sibi permissus, the understanding which has made up 
all its bundles of associations under the guidance of popular phrase- 
ology. The close, searching elenchus by which the man of vague 
generalities is constrained either to express his meaning to himself 
in definite terms, or to confess that he does not know what he is 
talking about; the perpetual testing of all general statements by 
particular instances; the siege in form which is laid to the meaning 
of large abstract terms, by fixing upon some still larger class-name 
which includes that and more, and dividing down to the thing 
sought marking out its limits and definition by a series of ac- 
curately drawn distinctions between it and each of the cognate 
objects which are successively parted off from it all this, as an 
education for precise thinking, is inestimable, and all this, even at 
that age, took such hold of me that it became part of my own mind. 
I have felt ever since that the title of Platonist belongs by far better 



2O JOHN STUART MILL 

right to those who have been nourished in, and have endeavoured 
to practise Plato's mode of investigation, than to those who are 
distinguished only by the adoption of certain dogmatical conclusions, 
drawn mostly from the least intelligible of his works, and which 
the character of his mind and writings makes it uncertain whether 
he himself regarded as anything more than poetic fancies, or 
philosophic conjectures. 

In going through Plato and Demosthenes, since I could now 
read these authors, as far as the language was concerned, with per- 
fect ease, I was not required to construe them sentence by sentence, 
but to read them aloud to my father, answering questions when 
asked: but the particular attention which he paid to elocution (in 
which his own excellence was remarkable) made this reading aloud 
to him a most painful task. Of all things which he required me to 
do, there was none which I did so constantly ill, or in which he so 
perpetually lost his temper with me. He had thought much on 
the principles of the art of reading, especially the most neglected 
part of it, the inflections of the voice, or modulation as writers on 
elocution call it (in contrast with articulation on the one side and 
expression on the other), and had reduced it to rules, grounded on 
the logical analysis of a sentence. These rules he strongly impressed 
upon me, and took me severely to task for every violation of them: 
but I even then remarked (though I did not venture to make the 
remark to him) that though he reproached me when I read a 
sentence ill, and told me how I ought to have read it, he never, by 
reading it himself, showed me how it ought to be read. A defect 
running through his otherwise admirable modes of instruction, as 
it did through all his modes of thought, was that of trusting too 
much to the intelligibleness of the abstract, when not embodied in 
the concrete. It was at a much later period of my youth, when 
practising elocution by myself, or with companions of my own age, 
that I for the first time understood the object of his rules, and saw 
the psychological grounds of them. At that time I and others 
followed out the subject into its ramifications and could have com- 
posed a very useful treatise, grounded on my father's principles. He 
himself left those principles and rules unwritten. I regret that when 
my mind was full of the subject, from systematic practice, I did not 
put them, and our improvements of them, into a formal shape. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 21 

A book which contributed largely to my education, in the best 
sense of the term, was my father's History of India. It was pub- 
lished in the beginning of 1818. During the year previous, while it 
was passing through the press, I used to read the proof sheets to 
him; or rather, I read the manuscript to him while he corrected the 
proofs. The number of new ideas which I received from this re- 
markable book, and the impulse and stimulus as well as guidance 
given to my thoughts by its criticisms and disquisitions on society 
and civilization in the Hindoo part, on institutions and the acts of 
governments in the English part, made my early familiarity with it 
eminently useful to my subsequent progress. And though I can 
perceive deficiencies in it now as compared with a perfect standard, 
I still think it, if not the most, one of the most instructive histories 
ever written, and one of the books from which most benefit may be 
derived by a mind in the course of making up its opinions. 

The Preface, among the most characteristic of my father's writ- 
ings, as well as the richest in materials of thought, gives a picture 
which may be entirely depended on, of the sentiments and expecta- 
tions with which he wrote the History. Saturated as the book is 
with the opinions and modes of judgment of a democratic radicalism 
then regarded as extreme; and treating with a severity, at that 
time most unusual, the English Constitution, the English law, and 
all parties and classes who possessed any considerable influence in 
the country; he may have expected reputation, but certainly not 
advancement in life, from its publication; nor could he have sup- 
posed that it would raise up anything but enemies for him in power- 
ful quarters: least of all could he have expected favour from the 
East India Company, to whose commercial privileges he was un- 
qualifiedly hostile, and on the acts of whose government he had 
made so many severe comments: though, in various parts of his 
book, he bore a testimony in their favour, which he felt to be their 
just due, namely, that no Government had on the whole given so 
much proof, to the extent of its lights, of good intention towards 
its subjects; and that if the acts of any other Government had the 
light of publicity as completely let in upon them, they would, in all 
probability, still less bear scrutiny. 

On learning, however, in the spring of 1819, about a year after 
the publication of the History, that the East India Directors desired 



22 JOHN STUART MILL 

to strengthen the part of their home establishment which was em- 
ployed in carrying on the correspondence with India, my father 
declared himself a candidate for that employment, and, to the credit 
of the Directors, successfully. He was appointed one of the As- 
sistants of the Examiner of India Correspondence; officers whose 
duty it was to prepare drafts of despatches to India, for consideration 
by the Directors, in the principal departments of administration. 
In this office, and in that of Examiner, which he subsequently at- 
tained, the influence which his talents, his reputation, and his de- 
cision of character gave him, with superiors who really desired the 
good government of India, enabled him to a great extent to throw 
into his drafts of despatches, and to carry through the ordeal of 
the Court of Directors and Board of Control, without having their 
force much weakened, his real opinions on Indian subjects. In his 
History he had set forth, for the first time, many of the true 
principles of Indian administration: and his despatches, following 
his History, did more than had ever been done before to promote 
the improvement of India, and teach Indian officials to understand 
their business. If a selection of them were published, they would, 
I am convinced, place his character as a practical statesman fully on 
a level with his eminence as a speculative writer. 

This new employment of his time caused no relaxation in his 
attention to my education. It was in this same year, 1819, that he 
took me through a complete course of political economy. His loved 
and intimate friend, Ricardo, had shortly before published the book 
which formed so great an epoch in political economy; a book which 
never would have been published or written, but for the entreaty 
and strong encouragement of my father; for Ricardo, the most 
modest of men, though firmly convinced of the truth of his doc- 
trines, deemed himself so little capable of doing them justice in 
exposition and expression, that he shrank from the idea of pub- 
licity. The same friendly encouragement induced Ricardo, a year 
or two later, to become a member of the House of Commons; where 
during the few remaining years of his life, unhappily cut short in 
the full vigour of his intellect, he rendered so much service to his 
and my father's opinions both on political economy and on other 
subjects. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 23 

Though Ricardo's great work was already in print, no didactic 
treatise embodying its doctrines, in a manner fit for learners, had 
yet appeared. My father, therefore, commenced instructing me in 
the science by a sort of lectures, which he delivered to me in our 
walks. He expounded each day a portion of the subject, and I gave 
him next day a written account of it, which he made me rewrite 
over and over again until it was clear, precise, and tolerably com- 
plete. In this manner I went through the whole extent of the science; 
and the written outline of it which resulted from my daily compte 
rendu, served him afterwards as notes from which to write his 
Elements of Political Economy. After this I read Ricardo, giving 
an account daily of what I read, and discussing, in the best manner 
I could, the collateral points which offered themselves in our 
progress. 

On Money, as the most intricate part of the subject, he made me 
read in the same manner Ricardo's admirable pamphlets, written 
during what was called the Bullion controversy; to these succeeded 
Adam Smith; and in this reading it was one of my father's main 
objects to make me apply to Smith's more superficial view of political 
economy, the superior lights of Ricardo, and detect what was fal- 
lacious in Smith's arguments, or erroneous in any of his conclusions. 
Such a mode of instruction was excellently calculated to form a 
thinker; but it required to be worked by a thinker, as close and 
vigorous as my father. The path was a thorny one, even to him, 
and I am sure it was so to me, notwithstanding the strong interest 
I took in the subject. He was often, and much beyond reason, pro- 
voked by my failures, in cases where success could not have been 
expected; but in the main his method was right, and it succeeded. 
I do not believe that any scientific teaching ever was more thorough, 
or better fitted for training the faculties, than the mode in which 
logic and political economy were taught to me by my father. Striv- 
ing, even in an exaggerated degree, to call forth the activity of my 
faculties, by making me find out everything for myself, he gave his 
explanations not before, but after, I had felt the full force of the 
difficulties; and not only gave me an accurate knowledge of these 
two great subjects, as far as they were then understood, but made 
me a thinker on both. I thought for myself almost from the first, 



24 JOHN STUART MILL 

and occasionally thought differently from him, though for a long 
time only on minor points, and making his opinion the ultimate 
standard. At a later period I even occasionally convinced him, and 
altered his opinion on some points of detail: which I state to his 
honour, not my own. It at once exemplifies his perfect candour, 
and the real worth of his method of teaching. 

At this point concluded what can properly be called my lessons: 
when I was about fourteen I left England for more than a year; 
and after my return, though my studies went on under my father's 
general direction, he was no longer my schoolmaster. I shall there- 
fore pause here, and turn back to matters of a more general nature 
connected with the part of my life and education included in the 
preceding reminiscences. 

In the course of instruction which I have partially retraced, the 
point most superficially apparent is the great effort to give, during 
the years of childhood, an amount of knowledge in what are con- 
sidered the higher branches of education, which is seldom acquired 
(if acquired at all) until the age of manhood. The result of the 
experiment shows the ease with which this may be done, and places 
in a strong light the wretched waste of so many precious years as 
are spent in acquiring the modicum of Latin and Greek commonly 
taught to schoolboys; a waste which has led so many educational 
reformers to entertain the ill-judged proposal of discarding these 
languages altogether from general education. If I had been by 
nature extremely quick of apprehension, or had possessed a very 
accurate and retentive memory, or were of a remarkably active and 
energetic character, the trial would not be conclusive; but in all 
these natural gifts I am rather below than above par; what I could 
do, could assuredly be done by any boy or girl of average capacity 
and healthy physical constitution: and if I have accomplished any- 
thing, I owe it, among other fortunate circumstances, to the fact 
that through the early training bestowed on me by my father, I 
started, I may fairly say, with an advantage of a quarter of a century 
over my contemporaries. 

There was one cardinal point in this training, of which I have 
already given some indication, and which, more than anything 
else, was the cause of whatever good it effected. Most boys or youths 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 25 

who have had much knowledge drilled into them, have their mental 
capacities not strengthened, but overlaid by it. They are crammed 
with mere facts, and with the opinions or phrases of other people, 
and these are accepted as a substitute for the power to form opinions 
of their own: and thus the sons of eminent fathers, who have spared 
no pains in their education, so often grow up mere parroters of 
what they have learnt, incapable of using their minds except in the 
furrows traced for them. Mine, however, was not an education of 
cram. My father never permitted anything which I learnt to de- 
generate into a mere exercise of memory. He strove to make the 
understanding not only go along with every step of the teaching, 
but, if possible, precede it. Anything which could be found out by 
thinking I never was told, until I had exhausted my efforts to find 
it out for myself. As far as I can trust my remembrance, I acquitted 
myself very lamely in this department; my recollection of such 
matters is almost wholly of failures, hardly ever of success. It is 
true the failures were often in things in which success in so early a 
stage of my progress, was almost impossible. I remember at some 
time in my thirteenth year, on my happening to use the word idea, 
he asked me what an idea was; and expressed some displeasure at 
my ineffectual efforts to define the word: I recollect also his indig- 
nation at my using the common expression that something was 
true in theory but required correction in practice; and how, after 
making me vainly strive to define the word theory, he explained 
its meaning, and showed the fallacy of the vulgar form of speech 
which I had used; leaving me fully persuaded that in being unable 
to give a correct definition of Theory, and in speaking of it as some- 
thing which might be at variance with practice, I had shown un- 
paralleled ignorance. In this he seems, and perhaps was, very 
unreasonable; but I think, only in being angry at my failure. A 
pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, 
never does all he can. 

One of the evils most liable to attend on any sort of early pro- 
ficiency, and which often fatally blights its promise, my father most 
anxiously guarded against. This was self-conceit. He kept me, with 
extreme vigilance, out of the way of hearing myself praised, or of 
being led to make self-flattering comparisons between myself and 



26 JOHN STUART MILL 

others. From his own intercourse with me I could derive none but 
a very humble opinion of myself; and the standard of comparison 
he always held up to me, was not what other people did, but what 
a man could and ought to do. He completely succeeded in pre- 
serving me from the sort of influences he so much dreaded. I was 
not at all aware that my attainments were anything unusual at my 
age. If I accidentally had my attention drawn to the fact that some 
other boy knew less than myself which happened less often than 
might be imagined I concluded, not that I knew much, but that 
he, for some reason or other, knew little, or that his knowledge was 
of a different kind from mine. My state of mind was not humility, 
but neither was it arrogance. I never thought of saying to myself, 
I am, or I can do, so and so. I neither estimated myself highly nor 
lowly: I did not estimate myself at all. If I thought anything about 
myself, it was that I was rather backward in my studies, since I 
always found myself so, in comparison with what my father ex- 
pected from me. I assert this with confidence, though it was not 
the impression of various persons who saw me in my childhood. 
They, as I have since found, thought me greatly and disagreeably 
self -conceited; probably because I was disputatious, and did not 
scruple to give direct contradictions to things which I heard said. 
I suppose I acquired this bad habit from having been encouraged 
in an unusual degree to talk on matters beyond my age, and with 
grown persons, while I never had inculcated on me the usual re- 
spect for them. My father did not correct this ill-breeding and im- 
pertinence, probably from not being aware of it, for I was always 
too much in awe of him to be otherwise than extremely subdued 
and quiet in his presence. Yet with all this I had no notion of any 
superiority in myself; and well was it for me that I had not. I re- 
member the very place in Hyde Park where, in my fourteenth year, 
on the eve of leaving my father's house for a long absence, he told 
me that I should find, as I got acquainted with new people, that I 
had been taught many things which youths of my age did not com- 
monly know; and that many persons would be disposed to talk to 
me of this, and to compliment me upon it. What other things he 
said on this topic I remember very perfectly; but he wound up by 
saying, that whatever I knew more than others, could not be ascribed 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 2/ 

to any merit in me, but to the very unusual advantage which had 
fallen to my lot, of having a father who was able to teach me, and 
willing to give the necessary trouble and time; that it was no mat- 
ter of praise to me, if I knew more than those who had not had a 
similar advantage, but the deepest disgrace to me if I did not. I 
have a distinct remembrance, that the suggestion thus for the first 
time made to me, that I knew more than other youths who were 
considered well educated, was to me a piece of information, to 
which, as to all other things which my father told me, I gave implicit 
credence, but which did not at all impress me as a personal matter. 
I felt no disposition to glorify myself upon the circumstance that 
there were other persons who did not know what I knew; nor had 
I ever flattered myself that my acquirements, whatever they might 
be, were any merit of mine: but, now when my attention was called 
to the subject, I felt that what my father had said respecting my 
peculiar advantages was exactly the truth and common sense of the 
matter, and it fixed my opinion and feeling from that time forward. 
It is evident that this, among many other of the purposes of my 
father's scheme of education, could not have been accomplished if 
he had not carefully kept me from having any great amount of 
intercourse with other boys. He was earnestly bent upon my escap- 
ing not only the corrupting influence which boys exercise over boys, 
but the contagion of vulgar modes of thought and feeling; and for 
this he was willing that I should pay the price of inferiority in the 
accomplishments which schoolboys in all countries chiefly cultivate. 
The deficiencies in my education were principally in the things 
which boys learn from being turned out to shift for themselves, and 
from being brought together in large numbers. From temperance 
and much walking, I grew up healthy and hardy, though not mus- 
cular; but I could do no feats of skill or physical strength, and knew 
none of the ordinary bodily exercises. It was not that play, or time 
for it, was refused me. Though no holidays were allowed, lest the 
habit of work should be broken, and a taste for idleness acquired, 
I had ample leisure in every day to amuse myself; but as I had no 
boy companions, and the animal need of physical activity was satis- 
fied by walking, my amusements, which were mostly solitary, were 
in general, of a quiet, if not a bookish turn, and gave little stimulus 



28 JOHN STUART MILL 

to any other kind even of mental activity than that which was 
already called forth by my studies: I consequently remained long, 
and in a less degree have always remained, inexpert in anything 
requiring manual dexterity; my mind, as well as my hands, did its 
work very lamely when it was applied, or ought to have been applied 
to the practical details which, as they are the chief interest of life to 
the majority of men, are also the things in which whatever mental 
capacity they have, chiefly shows itself. I was constantly meriting 
reproof by inattention, inobservance, and general slackness of mind 
in matters of daily life. My father was the extreme opposite in these 
particulars: his senses and mental faculties were always on the alert; 
he carried decision and energy of character in his whole manner 
and into every action of life: and this, as much as his talents, con- 
tributed to the strong impression which he always made upon those 
with whom he came into personal contact. But the children of 
energetic parents, frequently grow up unenergetic, because they 
lean on their parents, and the parents are energetic for them. The 
education which my father gave me, was in itself much more fitted 
for training me to %now than to do. Not that he was unaware of 
my deficiencies; both as a boy and as a youth I was incessantly 
smarting under his severe admonitions on the subject. There was 
anything but insensibility or tolerance on his part towards such 
shortcomings : but, while he saved me from the demoralizing effects 
of school life, he made no effort to provide me with any sufficient 
substitute for its practicalizing influences. Whatever qualities he 
himself, probably, had acquired without difficulty or special train- 
ing, he seems to have supposed that I ought to acquire as easily. He 
had not, I think, bestowed the same amount of thought and atten- 
tion on this, as on most other branches of education, and here, as 
well as in some other points of my tuition, he seems to have expected 
effects without causes. 



CHAPTER II 

MORAL INFLUENCES IN EARLY YOUTH. MY FATHER'S CHARACTER AND 

OPINIONS. 

IN my education, as in that of everyone, the moral influences, 
which are so much more important than all others, are also the 
most complicated, and the most difficult to specify with any 
approach to completeness. Without attempting the hopeless task 
of detailing the circumstances by which, in this respect, my early 
character may have been shaped, I shall confine myself to a few 
leading points, which form an indispensable part of any true account 
of my education. 

I was brought up from the first without any religious belief, in 
the ordinary acceptation of the term. My father, educated in the 
creed of Scotch Presbyterianism, had by his own studies and reflec- 
tions been early led to reject not only the belief in Revelation, but 
the foundations of what is commonly called Natural Religion. I 
have heard him say, that the turning point of his mind on the sub- 
ject was reading Butler's Analogy. That work, of which he always 
continued to speak with respect, kept him, as he said, for some con- 
siderable time, a believer in the divine authority of Christianity; 
by proving to him, that whatever are the difficulties in believing 
that the Old and New Testaments proceed from, or record the acts 
of a perfectly wise and good being, the same and still greater dif- 
ficulties stand in the way of the belief, that a being of such a 
character can have been the Maker of the universe. He considered 
Butler's argument as conclusive against the only opponents for 
whom it was intended. Those who admit an omnipotent as well 
as perfectly just and benevolent maker and ruler of such a world 
as this, can say little against Christianity but what can, with at least 
equal force, be retorted against themselves. Finding, therefore, no 
halting place in Deism, he remained in a state of perplexity, until, 
doubtless after many struggles, he yielded to the conviction, that, 

29 



3O JOHN STUART MILL 

concerning the origin of things nothing whatever can be known. 
This is the only correct statement of his opinion; for dogmatic 
atheism he looked upon as absurd; as most of those, whom the 
world has considered Atheists, have always done. These particulars 
are important, because they show that my father's rejection of all 
that is called religious belief, was not, as many might suppose, 
primarily a matter of logic and evidence: the grounds of it were 
moral, still more than intellectual. He found it impossible to believe 
that a world so full of evil was the work of an Author combining 
infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness. His intel- 
lect spurned the subtleties by which men attempt to blind themselves 
to this open contradiction. The Sabaean, or Manichaean, theory of 
a Good and an Evil Principle, struggling against each other for the 
government of the universe, he would not have equally condemned; 
and I have heard him express surprise, that no one revived it in 
our time. He would have regarded it as a mere hypothesis; but he 
would have ascribed it to no depraving influence. As it was, his 
aversion to religion, in the sense usually attached to the term, was 
of the same kind with that of Lucretius: he regarded it with the 
feelings due not to a mere mental delusion, but to a great moral 
evil. He looked upon it as the greatest enemy of morality, first, by 
setting up fictitious excellences, belief in creeds, devotional feelings, 
and ceremonies, not connected with the good of human-kind, 
and causing these to be accepted as substitutes for genuine virtues: 
but above all, by radically vitiating the standard of morals; making 
it consist in doing the will of a being, on whom it lavishes indeed 
all the phrases of adulation, but whom in sober truth it depicts as 
eminently hateful. I have a hundred times heard him say, that all 
ages and nations have represented their gods as wicked, in a con- 
stantly increasing progression, that mankind have gone on adding 
trait after trait till they reached the most perfect conception of 
wickedness which the human mind can devise, and have called 
this God, and prostrated themselves before it. This ne plus ultra of 
wickedness he considered to be embodied in what is commonly 
presented to mankind as the creed of Christianity. Think (he used 
to say) of a being who would make a Hell who would create the 
human race with the infallible foreknowledge, and therefore with 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 31 

the intention, that the great majority of them were to be consigned 
to horrible and everlasting torment. The time, I believe, is draw- 
ing near when this dreadful conception of an object of worship 
will be no longer identified with Christianity; and when all persons, 
with any sense of moral good and evil, will look upon it with the 
same indignation with which my father regarded it. My father was 
as well aware as any one that Christians do not, in general, undergo 
the demoralizing consequences which seem inherent in such a creed, 
in the manner or to the extent which might have been expected 
from it. The same slovenliness of thought, and subjection of the 
reason to fears, wishes, and affections, which enable them to accept 
a theory involving a contradiction in terms, prevents them from 
perceiving the logical consequences of the theory. Such is the facil- 
ity with which mankind believe at one and the same time things 
inconsistent with one another, and so few are those who draw from 
what they receive as truths, any consequences but those recom- 
mended to them by their feelings, that multitudes have held the 
undoubting belief in an Omnipotent Author of Hell, and have 
nevertheless identified that being with the best conception they 
were able to form of perfect goodness. Their worship was not paid 
to the demon which such a Being as they imagined would really be, 
but to their own ideal of excellence. The evil is, that such a belief 
keeps the ideal wretchedly low; and opposes the most obstinate re- 
sistance to all thought which has a tendency to raise it higher. 
Believers shrink from every train of ideas which would lead the 
mind to a clear conception and an elevated standard of excellence, 
because they feel (even when they do not distinctly see) that such 
a standard would conflict with many of the dispensations of nature, 
and with much of what they are accustomed to consider as the 
Christian creed. And thus morality continues a matter of blind 
tradition, with no consistent principle, nor even any consistent feel- 
ing, to guide it. 

It would have been wholly inconsistent with my father's ideas of 
duty, to allow me to acquire impressions contrary to his convictions 
and feelings respecting religion: and he impressed upon me from 
the first, that the manner in which the world came into existence 
was a subject on which nothing was known: that the question, 



32 JOHN STUART MILL 

"Who made me?" cannot be answered, because we have no ex- 
perience or authentic information from which to answer it; and 
that any answer only throws the difficulty a step further back, since 
the question immediately presents itself, "Who made God?" He, 
at the same time, took care that I should be acquainted with what 
had been thought by mankind on these impenetrable problems. I 
have mentioned at how early an age he made me a reader of 
ecclesiastical history; and he taught me to take the strongest inter- 
est in the Reformation, as the great and decisive contest against 
priestly tyranny for liberty of thought. 

I am thus one of the very few examples, in this country, of one 
who has, not thrown off religious belief, but never had it: I grew 
up in a negative state with regard to it. I looked upon the modern 
exactly as I did upon the ancient religion, as something which in 
no way concerned me. It did not seem to me more strange that 
English people should believe what I did not, than that the men I 
read of in Herodotus should have done so. History had made the 
variety of opinions among mankind a fact familiar to me, and this 
was but a prolongation of that fact. This point in my early educa- 
tion had, however, incidentally one bad consequence deserving 
notice. In giving me an opinion contrary to that of the world, my 
father thought it necessary to give it as one which could not pru- 
dently be avowed to the world. This lesson of keeping my thoughts 
to myself, at that early age, was attended with some moral dis- 
advantages; though my limited intercourse with strangers, especially 
such as were likely to speak to me on religion, prevented me from 
being placed in the alternative of avowal or hypocrisy. I remember 
two occasions in my boyhood, on which I felt myself in this alterna- 
tive, and in both cases I avowed my disbelief and defended it. My 
opponents were boys, considerably older than myself: one of them 
I certainly staggered at the time, but the subject was never renewed 
between us: the other who was surprised and somewhat shocked, 
did his best to convince me for some time, without effect. 

The great advance in liberty of discussion, which is one of the 
most important differences between the present time and that of 
my childhood, has greatly altered the moralities of this question; 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 33 

and I think that few men of my father's intellect and public spirit, 
holding with such intensity of moral conviction as he did, unpopular 
opinions on religion, or on any other of the great subjects of thought, 
would now either practise or inculcate the withholding of them 
from the world, unless in the cases, becoming fewer every day, in 
which frankness on these subjects would either risk the loss of 
means of subsistence, or would amount to exclusion from some 
sphere of usefulness peculiarly suitable to the capacities of the in- 
dividual. On religion in particular the time appears to me to have 
come, when it is the duty of all who being qualified in point of 
knowledge, have on mature consideration satisfied themselves that 
the current opinions are not only false but hurtful, to make their 
dissent known; at least, if they are among those whose station or 
reputation gives their opinion a chance of being attended to. Such 
an avowal would put an end, at once and for ever, to the vulgar 
prejudice, that what is called, very improperly, unbelief, is con- 
nected with any bad qualities either of mind or heart. The world 
would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its bright- 
est ornaments of those most distinguished even in popular estima- 
tion for wisdom and virtue are complete sceptics in religion; many 
of them refraining from avowal, less from personal considerations, 
than from a conscientious, though now in my opinion a most mis- 
taken apprehension, lest by speaking out what would tend to weaken 
existing beliefs, and by consequence (as they suppose) existing 
restraints, they should do harm instead of good. 

Of unbelievers (so called) as well as of believers, there are many 
species, including almost every variety of moral type. But the best 
among them, as no one who has had opportunities of really knowing 
them will hesitate to affirm, are more genuinely religious, in the 
best sense of the word religion, than those who exclusively arrogate 
to themselves the title. The liberality of the age, or in other words 
the weakening of the obstinate prejudice which makes men unable 
to see what is before their eyes because it is contrary to their ex- 
pectations, has caused it to be very commonly admitted that a Deist 
may be truly religious: but if religion stands for any graces of 
character and not for mere dogma, the assertion may equally be 



34 JOHN STUART MILL 

made of many whose belief is far short of Deism. Though they may 
think the proof incomplete that the universe is a work of design, 
and though they assuredly disbelieve that it can have an Author and 
Governor who is absolute in power as well as perfect in goodness, 
they have that which constitutes the principal worth of all religions 
whatever, an ideal conception of a Perfect Being, to which they 
habitually refer as the guide of their conscience; and this ideal of 
Good is usually far nearer to perfection than the objective Deity 
of those, who think themselves obliged to find absolute goodness 
in the author of a world so crowded with suffering and so deformed 
by injustice as ours. 

My father's moral convictions, wholly dissevered from religion, 
were very much of the character of those of the Greek philosophers; 
and were delivered with the force and decision which characterized 
all that came from him. Even at the very early age at which I read 
with him the Memorabilia of Xenophon, I imbibed from that work 
and from his comments a deep respect for the character of Socrates; 
who stood in my mind as a model of ideal excellence: and I well 
remember how my father at that time impressed upon me the 
lesson of the "Choice of Hercules." At a somewhat later period 
the lofty moral standard exhibited in the writings of Plato operated 
upon me with great force. My father's moral inculcations were at 
all times mainly those of the "Socratici viri;" justice, temperance 
(to which he gave a very extended application), veracity, per- 
severance, readiness to encounter pain and especially labour; regard 
for the public good; estimation of persons according to their merits, 
and of things according to their intrinsic usefulness; a life of exertion 
in contradiction to one of self-indulgent ease and sloth. These and 
other moralities he conveyed in brief sentences, uttered as occasion 
arose, of grave exhortation, or stern reprobation and contempt. 

But though direct moral teaching does much, indirect does more; 
and the effect my father produced on my character, did not depend 
solely on what he said or did with that direct object, but also, and 
still more, on what manner of man he was. 

In his views of life he partook of the character of the Stoic, the 
Epicurean, and the Cynic, not in the modern but the ancient sense 
of the word. In his personal qualities the Stoic predominated. His 






AUTOBIOGRAPHY 35 

standard of morals was Epicurean, inasmuch as it was utilitarian, 
taking as the exclusive test of right and wrong, the tendency of 
actions to produce pleasure or pain. But he had (and this was the 
Cynic element) scarcely any belief in pleasure; at least in his later 
years, of which alone, on this point, I can speak confidently. He 
was not insensible to pleasures; but he deemed very few of them 
worth the price which, at least in the present state of society, must 
be paid for them. The greater number of miscarriages in life, he 
considered to be attributable to the over-valuing of pleasures. Ac- 
cordingly, temperance, in the large sense intended by the Greek 
philosophers stopping short at the point of moderation in all in- 
dulgences was with him, as with them, almost the central point of 
educational precept. His inculcations of this virtue fill a large place 
in my childish remembrances. He thought human life a poor thing 
at best, after the freshness of youth and of unsatisfied curiosity had 
gone by. This was a topic on which he did not often speak, 
especially, it may be supposed, in the presence of young persons: 
but when he did, it was with an air of settled and profound con- 
viction. He would sometimes say, that if life were made what it 
might be, by good government and good education, it would be 
worth having: but he never spoke with anything like enthusiasm 
even of that possibility. He never varied in rating intellectual enjoy- 
ments above all others, even in value as pleasures, independently 
of their ulterior benefits. The pleasures of the benevolent affections 
he placed high in the scale; and used to say, that he had never 
known a happy old man, except those who were able to live over 
again in the pleasures of the young. For passionate emotions of 
all sorts, and for everything which has been said or written in 
exaltation of them, he professed the greatest contempt. He regarded 
them as a form of madness. "The intense" was with him a bye-word 
of scornful disapprobation. He regarded as an aberration of the 
moral standard of modern times, compared with that of the ancients, 
the great stress laid upon feeling. Feelings, as such, he considered 
to be no proper subjects of praise or blame. Right and wrong, good 
and bad, he regarded as qualities solely of conduct of acts and 
omissions; there being no feeling which may not lead, and does not 
frequently lead, either to good or to bad actions: conscience itself, 



36 JOHN STUART MILL 

the very desire to act right, often leading people to act wrong. 
Consistently carrying out the doctrine, that the object of praise 
and blame should be the discouragement of wrong conduct and the 
encouragement of right, he refused to let his praise or blame be 
influenced by the motive of the agent. He blamed as severely what 
he thought a bad action, when the motive was a feeling of duty, as 
if the agents had been consciously evil doers. He would not have 
accepted as a plea in mitigation for inquisitors, that they sincerely 
believed burning heretics to be an obligation of conscience. But 
though he did not allow honesty of purpose to soften his dis- 
approbation of actions, it had its full effect on his estimation of 
characters. No one prized conscientiousness and rectitude of in- 
tention more highly, or was more incapable of valuing any person 
in whom he did not feel assurance of it. But he disliked people 
quite as much for any other deficiency, provided he thought it 
equally likely to make them act ill. He disliked, for instance, a 
fanatic in any bad cause, as much or more than one who adopted 
the same cause from self-interest, because he thought him even 
more likely to be practically mischievous. And thus, his aversion 
to many intellectual errors, or what he regarded as such, partook, 
in a certain sense, of the character of a moral feeling. All this is 
merely saying that he, in a degree once common, but now very un- 
usual, threw his feelings into his opinions; which truly it is difficult 
to understand how any one who possesses much of both, can fail 
to do. None but those who do not care about opinions, will con- 
found this with intolerance. Those, who having opinions which 
they hold to be immensely important, and their contraries to be 
prodigiously hurtful, have any deep regard for the general good, 
will necessarily dislike, as a class and in the abstract, those who 
think wrong what they think right, and right what they think 
wrong: though they need not therefore be, nor was my father, 
insensible to good qualities in an opponent, nor governed in their 
estimation of individuals by one general presumption, instead of by 
the whole of their character. I grant that an earnest person, being 
no more infallible than other men, is liable to dislike people on 
account of opinions which do not merit dislike; but if he neither 
himself does them any ill office, nor connives at its being done by 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 37 

others, he is not intolerant: and the forbearance which flows from a 
conscientious sense of the importance to mankind of the equal free- 
dom of all opinions, is the only tolerance which is commendable, 
or, to the highest moral order of minds, possible. 

It will be admitted, that a man of the opinions, and the character, 
above described, was likely to leave a strong moral impression on 
any mind principally formed by him, and that his moral teaching 
was not likely to err on the side of laxity or indulgence. The element 
which was chiefly deficient in his moral relation to his children 
was that of tenderness. I do not believe that this deficiency lay in 
his own nature. I believe him to have had much more feeling than 
he habitually showed, and much greater capacities of feeling than 
were ever developed. He resembled most Englishmen in being 
ashamed of the signs of feeling, and by the absence of demonstra- 
tion, starving the feelings themselves. If we consider further that 
he was in the trying position of sole teacher, and add to this that 
his temper was constitutionally irritable, it is impossible not to feel 
true pity for a father who did, and strove to do, so much for his 
children, who would have so valued their affection, yet who must 
have been constantly feeling that fear of him was drying it up at its 
source. This was no longer the case later in life, and with his 
younger children. They loved him tenderly: and if I cannot say 
so much of myself, I was always loyally devoted to him. As regards 
my own education, I hesitate to pronounce whether I was more a 
loser or gainer by his severity. It was not such as to prevent me 
from having a happy childhood. And I do not believe that boys 
can be induced to apply themselves with vigour, and what is so 
much more difficult, perseverance, to dry and irksome studies, by 
the sole force of persuasion and soft words. Much must be done, 
and much must be learnt, by children, for which rigid discipline, 
and known liability to punishment, are indispensable as means. It 
is, no doubt, a very laudable effort, in modern teaching, to render 
as much as possible of what the young are required to learn, easy 
and interesting to them. But when this principle is pushed to the 
length of not requiring them to learn anything but what has been 
made easy and interesting, one of the chief objects of education is 
sacrificed. I rejoice in the decline of the old brutal and tyrannical 



38 JOHN STUART MILL 

system of teaching, which, however, did succeed in enforcing habits 
of application; but the new, as it seems to me, is training up a race 
of men who will be incapable of doing anything which is disagree- 
able to them. I do not, then, believe that fear, as an element in 
education, can be dispensed with; but I am sure that it ought not 
to be the main element; and when it predominates so much as to 
preclude love and confidence on the part of the child to those who 
should be the unreservedly trusted advisers of after years, and per- 
haps to seal up the fountains of frank and spontaneous communi- 
cativeness in the child's nature, it is an evil for which a large abate- 
ment must be made from the benefits, moral and intellectual, which 
may flow from any other part of the education. 

During this first period of my life, the habitual frequenters of my 
father's house were limited to a very few persons, most of them 
little known to the world, but whom personal worth, and more or 
less of congeniality with at least his political opinions (not so fre- 
quently to be met with then as since) inclined him to cultivate; and 
his conversations with them I listened to with interest and in- 
struction. My being an habitual inmate of my father's study made 
me acquainted with the dearest of his friends, David Ricardo, who 
by his benevolent countenance, and kindliness of manner, was very 
attractive to young persons, and who after I became a student of 
political economy, invited me to his house and to walk with him in 
order to converse on the subject. I was a more frequent visitor (from 
about 1817 or 1818) to Mr. Hume, who, born in the same part of 
Scotland as my father, and having been, I rather think, a younger 
schoolfellow or college companion of his, had on returning from 
India renewed their youthful acquaintance, and who coming like 
many others greatly under the influence of my father's intellect and 
energy of character, was induced partly by that influence to go into 
Parliament, and there adopt the line of conduct which has given him 
an honourable place in the history of his country. Of Mr. Bentham 
I saw much more, owing to the close intimacy which existed be- 
tween him and my father. I do not know how soon after my father's 
first arrival in England they became acquainted. But my father 
was the earliest Englishman of any great mark, who thoroughly 
understood, and in the main adopted, Bentham's general views of 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 39 

ethics, government and law: and this was a natural foundation for 
sympathy between them, and made them familiar companions in a 
period of Bentham's life during which he admitted much fewer 
visitors than was the case subsequently. At this time Mr. Bentham 
passed some part of every year at Barrow Green House, in a beauti- 
ful part of the Surrey Hills, a few miles from Godstone, and there I 
each summer accompanied my father in a long visit. In 1813 Mr. 
Bentham, my father, and I made an excursion, which included 
Oxford, Bath and Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, and Portsmouth. In 
this journey I saw many things which were instructive to me, and 
acquired my first taste for natural scenery, in the elementary form 
of fondness for a "view." In the succeeding winter we moved into 
a house very near Mr. Bentham's, which my father rented from 
him, in Queen Square, Westminster. From 1814 to 1817 Mr. Ben- 
tham lived during half of each year at Ford Abbey, in Somersetshire 
(or rather in a part of Devonshire surrounded by Somersetshire), 
which intervals I had the advantage of passing at that place. This 
sojourn was, I think, an important circumstance in my education. 
Nothing contributes more to nourish elevation of sentiments in a 
people than the large and free character of their habitations. The 
middle age architecture, the baronial hall, and the spacious and lofty 
rooms, of this fine old place, so unlike the mean and cramped ex- 
ternals of English middle class life, gave the sentiment of a larger 
and freer existence, and were to me a sort of poetic cultivation, 
aided also by the character of the grounds in which the Abbey 
stood; which were riant and secluded, umbrageous, and full of the 
sound of falling waters. 

I owed another of the fortunate circumstances in my education, 
a year's residence in France, to Mr. Bentham's brother, General Sir 
Samuel Bentham. I had seen Sir Samuel Bentham and his family 
at their house near Gosport in the course of the tour already men- 
tioned (he being then Superintendent of the Dockyard at Ports- 
mouth), and during a stay of a few days which they made at Ford 
Abbey shortly after the peace, before going to live on the Continent. 

In 1820 they invited me for a six months' visit to them in the 
south of France, which their kindness ultimately prolonged to 
nearly a twelvemonth. Sir Samuel Bentham, though of a character 



4O JOHN STUART MILL 

of mind different from that of his illustrious brother, was a man 
of very considerable attainments and general powers, with a de- 
cided genius for mechanical art. His wife, a daughter of the cele- 
brated chemist, Dr. Fordyce, was a woman of strong will and 
decided character, much general knowledge, and great practical 
good sense of the Edgeworth kind: she was the ruling spirit of the 
household, as she deserved, and was well qualified, to be. Their 
family consisted of one son (the eminent botanist) and three 
daughters, the youngest about two years my senior. I am indebted 
to them for much and various instruction, and for an almost 
parental interest in my welfare. When I first joined them, in May 
1820, they occupied the Chateau of Pomignan (still belonging to a 
descendant of Voltaire's enemy) on the heights overlooking the plain 
of the Garonne between Montauban and Toulouse. I accompanied 
them in an excursion to the Pyrenees, including a stay of some 
duration at Bagneres de Bigorre, a journey to Pau, Bayonne, and 
Bagneres de Luchon, and an ascent of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre. 
This first introduction to the highest order of mountain scenery 
made the deepest impression on me, and gave a colour to my tastes 
through life. In October we proceeded by the beautiful mountain 
route of Castres and St. Pons, from Toulouse to Montpellier, in 
which last neighbourhood Sir Samuel had just bought the estate of 
Restincliere, near the foot of the singular mountain of St. Loup. 
During this residence in France, I acquired a familiar knowledge 
of the French language, and acquaintance with the ordinary French 
literature; I took lessons in various bodily exercises, in none of 
which however I made any proficiency; and at Montpellier I 
attended the excellent winter courses of lectures at the Faculte des 
Sciences, those of M. Anglada on chemistry, of M. Provencal on 
zoology, and of a very accomplished representative of the eighteenth 
century metaphysics, M. Gergonne, on logic, under the name of 
Philosophy of the Sciences. I also went through a course of the 
higher mathematics under the private tuition of M. Lentheric, a pro- 
fessor at the Lycee of Montpellier. But the greatest, perhaps, of the 
many advantages which I owed to this episode in my education, 
was that of having breathed for a whole year, the free and genial 
atmosphere of Continental life. This advantage was not the less 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 4! 

real though I could not then estimate, nor even consciously feel it. 
Having so little experience of English life, and the few people I 
knew being mostly such as had public objects, of a large and per- 
sonally disinterested kind, at heart, I was ignorant of the low moral 
tone of what, in England, is called society; the habit of, not indeed 
professing, but taking for granted in every mode of implication, 
that conduct is of course always directed towards low and petty 
objects; the absence of high feelings which manifests itself by 
sneering depreciation of all demonstrations of them, and by general 
abstinence (except among a few of the stricter religionists) from 
professing any high principles of action at all, except in those pre- 
ordained cases in which such profession is put on as part of the 
costume and formalities of the occasion. I could not then know or 
estimate the difference between this manner of existence, and that 
of a people like the French, whose faults, if equally real, are at all 
events different; among whom sentiments, which by comparison 
at least may be called elevated, are the current coin of human inter- 
course, both in books and in private life; and though often evaporat- 
ing in profession, are yet kept alive in the nation at large by con- 
stant exercise, and stimulated by sympathy, so as to form a living 
and active part of the existence of great numbers of persons, and to 
be recognised and understood by all. Neither could I then appreciate 
the general culture of the understanding, which results from the 
habitual exercise of the feelings, and is thus carried down into the 
most uneducated classes of several countries on the Continent, in a 
degree not equalled in England among the so-called educated, 
except where an unusual tenderness of conscience leads to a habitual 
exercise of the intellect on questions of right and wrong. I did not 
know the way in which, among the ordinary English, the absence 
of interest in things of an unselfish kind, except occasionally in a 
special thing here and there, and the habit of not speaking to others, 
nor much even to themselves, about the things in which they do feel 
interest, causes both their feelings and their intellectual faculties to 
remain undeveloped or to develop themselves only in some single 
and very limited direction; reducing them, considered as spiritual 
beings, to a kind of negative existence. All these things I did not 
perceive till long afterwards; but I even then felt, though without 



42 JOHN STUART MILL 

stating it clearly to myself, the contrast between the frank sociability 
and amiability of French personal intercourse, and the English 
mode of existence in which everybody acts as if everybody else 
(with few, or no exceptions) was either an enemy or a bore. In 
France, it is true, the bad as well as the good points, both of indi- 
vidual and of national character, come more to the surface, and 
break out more fearlessly in ordinary intercourse, than in England; 
but the general habit of the people is to show, as well as to expect, 
friendly feeling in every one towards every other, wherever there is 
not some positive cause for the opposite. In England it is only of 
the best bred people, in the upper or upper middle ranks, that any- 
thing like this can be said. 

In my way through Paris, both going and returning, I passed 
some time in the house of M. Say, the eminent political economist, 
who was a friend and correspondent of my father, having become 
acquainted with him on a visit to England a year or two after the 
peace. He was a man of the later period of the French Revolution, 
a fine specimen of the best kind of French Republican, one of those 
who had never bent the knee to Bonaparte though courted by him to 
do so; a truly upright, brave, and enlightened man. He lived a 
quiet and studious life, made happy by warm affections, public and 
private. He was acquainted with many of the chiefs of the Liberal 
party, and I saw various noteworthy persons while staying at his 
house; among whom I have pleasure in the recollection of having 
once seen Saint-Simon, not yet the founder either of a philosophy 
or a religion, and considered only as a clever original. The chief 
fruit which I carried away from the society I saw, was a strong 
and permanent interest in Continental Liberalism, of which I ever 
afterwards kept myself au courant, as much as of English politics: 
a thing not at all usual in those days with Englishmen, and which 
had a very salutary influence on my development, keeping me free 
from the error always prevalent in England, and from which even 
my father with all his superiority to prejudice was not exempt, of 
judging universal questions by a merely English standard. After 
passing a few weeks at Caen with an old friend of my father's, I 
returned to England in July, 1821; and my education resumed its 
ordinary course. 



CHAPTER III 
LAST STAGE OF EDUCATION, AND FIRST OF SELF-EDUCATION 

FOR the first year or two after my visit to France, I continued 
my old studies, with the addition of some new ones. When 
I returned, my father was just finishing for the press his 
Elements of Political Economy, and he made me perform an ex- 
ercise on the manuscript, which Mr. Bentham practised on all his 
own writings, making what he called "marginal contents;" a short 
abstract of every paragraph, to enable the writer more easily to judge 
of, and improve, the order of the ideas, and the general character 
of the exposition. Soon after, my father put into my hands Con- 
dillac's Traite des Sensations, and the logical and metaphysical 
volumes of his Cours d'Etudes; the first (notwithstanding the super- 
ficial resemblance between Condillac's psychological system and my 
father's) quite as much for a warning as for an example. I am not 
sure whether it was in this winter or the next that I first read a 
history of the French Revolution. I learnt with astonishment, that 
the principles of democracy, then apparently in so insignificant and 
hopeless a minority everywhere in Europe, had borne all before them 
in France thirty years earlier, and had been the creed of the nation. 
As may be supposed from this, I had previously a very vague idea 
of that great commotion. I knew only that the French had thrown 
off the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. and XV., had put the 
King and Queen to death, guillotined many persons, one of whom 
was Lavoisier, and had ultimately fallen under the despotism of 
Bonaparte. From this time, as was natural, the subject took an 
immense hold of my feelings. It allied itself with all my juvenile 
aspirations to the character of a democratic champion. What had 
happened so lately, seemed as if it might easily happen again: and 
the most transcendent glory I was capable of conceiving, was that 
of figuring, successful or unsuccessful, as a Girondist in an English 
Convention. 

43 



44 JOHN STUART MILL 

During the winter of 1821-2, Mr. John Austin, with whom at the 
time of my visit to France my father had but lately become 
acquainted, kindly allowed me to read Roman law with him. My 
father, notwithstanding his abhorrence of the chaos of barbarism 
called English Law, had turned his thoughts towards the bar as on 
the whole less ineligible for me than any other profession : and these 
readings with Mr. Austin, who had made Bentham's best ideas his 
own, and added much to them from other sources and from his 
own mind, were not only a valuable introduction to legal studies, 
but an important portion of general education. With Mr. Austin 
I read Heineccius on the Institutes, his Roman Antiquities, and part 
of his exposition of the Pandects; to which was added a considerable 
portion of Blackstone. It was at the commencement of these studies 
that my father, as a needful accompaniment to them, put into my 
hands Bentham's principal speculations, as interpreted to the Con- 
tinent, and indeed to all the world, by Dumont, in the Traite de 
Legislation. The reading of this book was an epoch in my life; one 
of the turning points in my mental history. 

My previous education had been, in a certain sense, already a 
course of Benthamism. The Benthamic standard of "the greatest 
happiness" was that which I had always been taught to apply; I 
was even familiar with an abstract discussion of it, forming an 
episode in an unpublished dialogue on Government, written by 
my father on the Platonic model. Yet in the first pages of Bentham 
it burst upon me with all the force of novelty. What thus impressed 
me was the chapter in which Bentham passed judgment on the 
common modes of reasoning in morals and legislation, deduced 
from phrases like "law of nature," "right reason," "the moral sense," 
"natural rectitude," and the like, and characterized them as dog- 
matism in disguise, imposing its sentiments upon others under cover 
of sounding expressions which convey no reason for the sentiment, 
but set up the sentiment as its own reason. It had not struck me be- 
fore, that Bentham's principle put an end to all this. The feeling 
rushed upon me, that all previous moralists were superseded, and 
that here indeed was the commencement of a new era in thought. 
This impression was strengthened by the manner in which Bentham 
put into scientific form the application of the happiness principle 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 45 

to the morality of actions, by analysing the various classes and 
orders of their consequences. But what struck me at that time most 
of all, was the Classification of OrTences, which is much more clear, 
compact, and imposing in Dumont's redaction than in the original 
work of Bentham from which it was taken. Logic and the dialectics 
of Plato, which had formed so large a part of my previous training, 
had given me a strong relish for accurate classification. This taste 
had been strengthened and enlightened by the study of botany, on 
the principles of what is called the Natural Method, which I had 
taken up with great zeal, though only as an amusement, during 
my stay in France; and when I found scientific classification applied 
to the great and complex subject of Punishable Acts, under the 
guidance of the ethical principle of Pleasurable and Painful Conse- 
quences, followed out in the method of detail introduced into these 
subjects by Bentham, I felt taken up to an eminence from which 
I could survey a vast mental domain, and see stretching out into 
the distance intellectual results beyond all computation. As I pro- 
ceeded further, there seemed to be added to this intellectual clear- 
ness, the most inspiring prospects of practical improvement in hu- 
man affairs. To Bentham's general view of the construction of a 
body of law I was not altogether a stranger, having read with atten- 
tion that admirable compendium, my father's article on Jurispru- 
dence: but I had read it with little profit, and scarcely any interest, 
no doubt from its extremely general and abstract character, and also 
because it concerned the form more than the substance of the corpus 
juris, the logic rather than the ethics of law. But Bentham's subject 
was Legislation, of which Jurisprudence is only the formal part: 
and at every page he seemed to open a clearer and broader concep- 
tion of what human opinions and institutions ought to be, how 
they might be made what they ought to be, and how far removed 
from it they are now. When I laid down the last volume of the 
Traite, I had become a different being. The "principle of utility" 
understood as Bentham understood it, and applied in the manner 
in which he applied it through these three volumes, fell exactly 
into its place as the keystone which held together the detached and 
fragmentary component parts of my knowledge and beliefs. It 
gave unity to my conceptions of things. I now had opinions; a 



46 JOHN STUART MILL 

creed, a doctrine, a philosophy; in one among the best senses of 
the word, a religion; the inculcation and diffusion of which could 
be made the principal outward purpose of a life. And I had a 
grand conception laid before me of changes to be effected in the 
condition of mankind through that doctrine. The Traite de Legis- 
lation wound up with what was to me a most impressive picture 
of human life as it would be made by such opinions and such laws 
as were recommended in the treatise. The anticipations of practica- 
ble improvement were studiously moderate, deprecating and dis- 
countenancing as reveries of vague enthusiasm many things which 
will one day seem so natural to human beings, that injustice will 
probably be done to those who once thought them chimerical. But, 
in my state of mind, this appearance of superiority to illusion added 
to the effect which Bentham's doctrines produced on me, by height- 
ening the impression of mental power, and the vista of improve- 
ment which he did open was sufficiently large and brilliant to light 
up my life, as well as to give a definite shape to my aspirations. 

After this I read, from time to time, the most important of the 
other works of Bentham which had then seen the light, either as 
written by himself or as edited by Dumont. This was my private 
reading: while, under my father's direction, my studies were carried 
into the higher branches of analytic psychology. I now read Locke's 
Essay, and wrote out an account of it, consisting of a complete 
abstract of every chapter, with such remarks as occurred to me: 
which was read by, or (I think) to, my father, and discussed 
throughout. I performed the same process with Helvetius de 1'Esprit, 
which I read of my own choice. This preparation of abstracts, sub- 
ject to my father's censorship, was of great service to me, by com- 
pelling precision in conceiving and expressing psychological doc- 
trines, whether accepted as truths or only regarded as the opinion 
of others. After Helvetius, my father made me study what he 
deemed the really master-production in the philosophy of mind, 
Hartley's Observations on Man. This book, though it did not, like 
the Traite de Legislation, give a new colour to my existence, made a 
very similar impression on me in regard to its immediate subject 
Hartley's explanation, incomplete as in many points it is, of the 
more complex mental phenomena by the law of association, com- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 47 

mended itself to me at once as a real analysis, and made me feel 
by contrast the insufficiency of the merely verbal generalizations 
of Condillac, and even of the instructive gropings and feelings about 
for psychological explanations, of Locke. It was at this very time 
that my father commenced writing his Analysis of the Mind, which 
carried Hartley's mode of explaining the mental phenomena to so 
much greater length and depth. He could only command the con- 
centration of thought necessary for this work, during the complete 
leisure of his holiday of a month or six weeks annually: and he 
commenced it in the summer of 1822, in the first holiday he passed 
at Dorking; in which neighbourhood, from that time to the end 
of his life, with the exception of two years, he lived, as far as his 
official duties permitted, for six months of every year. He worked 
at the Analysis during several successive vacations, up to the year 
1829 when it was published, and allowed me to read the manuscript, 
portion by portion, as it advanced. The other principal English 
writers on mental philosophy I read as I felt inclined, particularly 
Berkeley, Hume's Essays, Reid, Dugald Stewart and Brown on 
Cause and Effect. Brown's Lectures I did not read until two or 
three years later, nor at that time had my father himself read them. 
Among the works read in the course of this year, which contrib- 
uted materially to my development, I ought to mention a book 
(written on the foundation of some of Bentham's manuscripts and 
published under the pseudonyme of Philip Beauchamp) entitled 
"Analysis of the Influence of Natural Religion on the Temporal 
Happiness of Mankind." This was an examination not of the 
truth, but of the usefulness of religious belief, in the most general 
sense, apart from the peculiarities of any special Revelation; which, 
of all the parts of the discussion concerning religion, is the most 
important in this age, in which real belief in any religious doctrine 
is feeble and precarious, but the opinion of its necessity for moral 
and social purposes almost universal; and when those who reject 
revelation, very generally take refuge in an optimistic Deism, a 
worship of the order of Nature, and the supposed course of Provi- 
dence, at least as full of contradictions, and perverting to the moral 
sentiments, as any of the forms of Christianity, if only it is as 
completely realized. Yet, very little, with any claim to a philosophi- 



48 JOHN STUART MILL 

cal character, has been written by sceptics against the usefulness 
of this form of belief. The volume bearing the name of Philip 
Beauchamp had this for its special object. Having been shown to 
my father in manuscript, it was put into my hands by him, and 
I made a marginal analysis of it as I had done of the Elements 
of Political Economy. Next to the Traite de Legislation, it was one 
of the books which by the searching character of its analysis pro- 
duced the greatest effect upon me. On reading it lately after an 
interval of many years, I find it to have some of the defects as well 
as the merits of the Benthamic modes of thought, and to contain, 
as I now think, many weak arguments, but with a great over-balance 
of sound ones, and much good material for a more completely 
philosophic and conclusive treatment of the subject. 

I have now, I believe, mentioned all the books which had any 
considerable effect on my early mental development. From this 
point I began to carry on my intellectual cultivation by writing 
still more than by reading. In the summer of 1822 I wrote my 
first argumentative essay. I remember very little about it, except 
that it was an attack on what I regarded as the aristocratic prejudice, 
that the rich were, or were likely to be, superior in moral qualities 
to the poor. My performance was entirely argumentative, without 
any of the declamation which the subject would admit of, and might 
be expected to suggest to a young writer. In that department how- 
ever I was, and remained, very inapt. Dry argument was the only 
thing I could manage, or willingly attempted; though passively I was 
very susceptible to the effect of all composition, whether in the form 
of poetry or oratory, which appealed to the feelings on any basis 
of reason. My father, who knew nothing of this essay until it was 
finished, was well satisfied, and as I learnt from others, even pleased 
with it; but, perhaps from a desire to promote the exercise of other 
mental faculties than the purely logical, he advised me to make my 
next exercise in composition one of the oratorical kind: on which 
suggestion, availing myself of my familiarity with Greek history 
and ideas and with the Athenian orators, I wrote two speeches, one 
an accusation, the other a defence of Pericles, on a supposed im- 
peachment for not marching out to fight the Lacedaemonians on 
their invasion of Attica. After this I continued to write papers on 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 49 

subjects often very much beyond my capacity, but with great benefit 
both from the exercise itself, and from the discussions which it led 
to with my father. 

I had now also begun to converse, on general subjects, with the 
instructed men with whom I came in contact: and the opportunities 
of such contact naturally became more numerous. The two friends 
of my father from whom I derived most, and with whom I most 
associated, were Mr. Grote and Mr. John Austin. The acquaintance 
of both with my father was recent, but had ripened rapidly into 
intimacy. Mr. Grote was introduced to my father by Mr. Ricardo, 
I think in 1819, (being then about twenty-five years old,) and sought 
assiduously his society and conversation. Already a highly instructed 
man, he was yet, by the side of my father, a tyro in the great sub- 
jects of human opinion; but he rapidly seized on my father's best 
ideas; and in the department of political opinion he made himself 
known as early as 1820, by a pamphlet in defence of Radical Reform, 
in reply to a celebrated article by Sir James Mackintosh, then lately 
published in the Edinburgh Review. Mr. Grote's father, the banker, 
was, I believe, a thorough Tory, and his mother intensely Evangeli- 
cal; so that for his liberal opinions he was in no way indebted to 
home influences. But, unlike most persons who have the prospect 
of being rich by inheritance, he had, though actively engaged in 
the business of banking, devoted a great portion of time to philo- 
sophic studies; and his intimacy with my father did much to decide 
the character of the next stage in his mental progress. Him I often 
visited, and my conversations with him on political, moral, and 
philosophical subjects gave me, in addition to much valuable in- 
struction, all the pleasure and benefit of sympathetic communion 
with a man of the high intellectual and moral eminence which his 
life and writings have since manifested to the world. 

Mr. Austin, who was four or five years older than Mr. Grote, was 
the eldest son of a retired miller in Suffolk, who had made money 
by contracts during the war, and who must have been a man of 
remarkable qualities, as I infer from the fact that all his sons were 
of more than common ability and all eminently gentlemen. The 
one with whom we are now concerned, and whose writings on 
jurisprudence have made him celebrated, was for some time in the 



50 JOHN STUART MILL 

army, and served in Sicily under Lord William Bentinck. After the 
peace he sold his commission and studied for the bar, to which he 
had been called for some time before my father knew him. He was 
not, like Mr. Grote, to any extent, a pupil of my father, but he had 
attained, by reading and thought, a considerable number of the 
same opinions, modified by his own very decided individuality of 
character. He was a man of great intellectual powers which in con- 
versation appeared at their very best; from the vigour and richness 
of expression with which, under the excitement of discussion, he 
was accustomed to maintain some view or other of most general 
subjects; and from an appearance of not only strong, but deliberate 
and collected will; mixed with a certain bitterness, partly derived 
from temperament, and partly from the general cast of his feelings 
and reflections. The dissatisfaction with life and the world, felt more 
or less in the present state of society and intellect by every discerning 
and highly conscientious mind, gave in his case a rather melancholy 
tinge to the character, very natural to those whose passive moral 
susceptibilities are more than proportioned to their active energies. 
For it must be said, that the strength of will of which his manner 
seemed to give such strong assurance, expended itself principally 
in manner. With great zeal for human improvement, a strong sense 
of duty, and capacities and acquirements the extent of which is 
proved by the writings he has left, he hardly ever completed any 
intellectual task of magnitude. He had so high a standard of what 
ought to be done, so exaggerated a sense of deficiencies in his own 
performances, and was so unable to content himself with the amount 
of elaboration sufficient for the occasion and the purpose that he not 
only spoilt much of his work for ordinary use by overlabouring it, 
but spent so much time and exertion in superfluous study and 
thought, that when his task ought to have been completed, he had 
generally worked himself into an illness, without having half fin- 
ished what he undertook. From this mental infirmity (of which he 
is not the sole example among the accomplished and able men whom 
I have known), combined with liability to frequent attacks of dis- 
abling though not dangerous ill-health, he accomplished, through 
life, little in comparison with what he seemed capable of; but what 
he did produce is held in the very highest estimation by the most 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 51 

competent judges; and, like Coleridge, he might plead as a set-off 
that he had been to many persons, through his conversation, a source 
not only of much instruction but of great elevation of character. 
On me his influence was most salutary. It was moral in the best 
sense. He took a sincere and kind interest in me, far beyond what 
could have been expected towards a mere youth from a man of his 
age, standing, and what seemed austerity of character. There was 
in his conversation and demeanour a tone of highmindedness which 
did not show itself so much, if the quality existed as much, in any 
of the other persons with whom at that time I associated. My inter- 
course with him was the more beneficial, owing to his being of a 
different mental type from all other intellectual men whom I fre- 
quented, and he from the first set himself decidedly against the 
prejudices and narrownesses which are almost sure to be found in a 
young man formed by a particular mode of thought or a particular 
social circle. 

His younger brother, Charles Austin, of whom at this time and 
for the next year or two I saw much, had also a great effect on me, 
though of a very different description. He was but a few years 
older than myself, and had then just left the University, where he 
had shone with great eclat as a man of intellect and a brilliant orator 
and converser. The effect he produced on his Cambridge contempo- 
raries deserves to be accounted an historical event; for to it may in 
part be traced the tendency towards Liberalism in general, and 
the Benthamic and politico-economic form of it in particular, which 
showed itself in a portion of the more active-minded young men of 
the higher classes from this time to 1830. The Union Debating 
Society, at that time at the height of its reputation, was an arena 
where what were then thought extreme opinions, in politics and 
philosophy, were weekly asserted, face to face with their opposites, 
before audiences consisting of the elite of the Cambridge youth: 
and though many persons afterwards of more or less note, (of whom 
Lord Macaulay is the most celebrated), gained their first oratorical 
laurels in those debates, the really influential mind among these in- 
tellectual gladiators was Charles Austin. He continued, after leaving 
the University, to be, by his conversation and personal ascendancy, 
a leader among the same class of young men who had been his 



52 JOHN STUART MILL 

associates there: and he attached me among others to his car. 
Through him I became acquainted with Macaulay, Hyde and 
Charles Villiers, Strutt (now Lord Belper), Romilly (now Lord 
Romilly and Master of the Rolls), and various others who subse- 
quently figured in literature or politics, and among whom I heard 
discussions on many topics, as yet to a certain degree new to me. 
The influence of Charles Austin over me differed from that of the 
persons I have hitherto mentioned, in being not the influence of a 
man over a boy, but that of an elder contemporary. It was through 
him that I first felt myself, not a pupil under teachers, but a man 
among men. He was the first person of intellect whom I met on a 
ground of equality, though as yet much his inferior on that common 
ground. He was a man who never failed to impress greatly those 
with whom he came in contact, even when their opinions were the 
very reverse of his. The impression he gave was that of boundless 
strength, together with talents which, combined with such apparent 
force of will and character, seemed capable of dominating the world. 
Those who knew him, whether friendly to him or not, always antici- 
pated that he would play a conspicuous part in public life. It is 
seldom that men produce so great an immediate effect by speech, 
unless they, in some degree, lay themselves out for it; and he did 
this in no ordinary degree. He loved to strike, and even to startle. 
He knew that decision is the greatest element of effect, and he ut- 
tered his opinions with all the decision he could throw into them, 
never so well pleased as when he astonished any one by their au- 
dacity. Very unlike his brother, who made war against the nar- 
rower interpretations and applications of the principles they both 
professed, he, on the contrary, presented the Benthamic doctrines in 
the most startling form of which they were susceptible, exaggerating 
everything in them which tended to consequences offensive to any 
one's preconceived feelings. All which, he defended with such 
verve and vivacity, and carried off by a manner so agreeable as well 
as forcible, that he always either came off victor, or divided the 
honours of the field. It is my belief that much of the notion popu- 
larly entertained of the tenets and sentiments of what are called 
Benthamites or Utilitarians had its origin in paradoxes thrown out 
by Charles Austin. It must be said, however, that his example was 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 53 

followed, hand passtbus cequis, by younger proselytes, and that to 
outrer whatever was by anybody considered offensive in the doc- 
trines and maxims of Benthamism, became at one time the badge of 
a small coterie of youths. All of these who had anything in them, 
myself among others, quickly outgrew this boyish vanity; and those 
who had not, became tired of differing from other people, and gave 
up both the good and the bad part of the heterodox opinions they 
had for some time professed. 

It was in the winter of 1822-3 that I formed the plan of a little 
society, to be composed of young men agreeing in fundamental 
principles acknowledging Utility as their standard in ethics and 
politics, and a certain number of the principal corollaries drawn from 
it in the philosophy I had accepted and meeting once a fortnight 
to read essays and discuss questions conformably to the premises 
thus agreed on. The fact would hardly be worth mentioning, but 
for the circumstance, that the name I gave to the society I had 
planned was the Utilitarian Society. It was the first time that 
any one had taken the title of Utilitarian; and the term made its 
way into the language from this humble source. I did not invent 
the word, but found it in one of Gait's novels, the "Annals of the 
Parish," in which the Scotch clergyman, of whom the book is a 
supposed autobiography, is represented as warning his parishioners 
not to leave the Gospel and become utilitarians. With a boy's fond- 
ness for a name and a banner I seized on the word, and for some 
years called myself and others by it as a sectarian appellation; and it 
came to be occasionally used by some others holding the opinions 
which it was intended to designate. As those opinions attracted 
more notice, the term was repeated by strangers and opponents, 
and got into rather common use just about the time when those 
who had originally assumed it, laid down that along with other 
sectarian characteristics. The Society so called consisted at first of 
no more than three members, one of whom, being Mr. Bentham's 
amanuensis, obtained for us permission to hold our meetings in his 
house. The number never, I think, reached ten, and the society 
was broken up in 1826. It had thus an existence of about three 
years and a half. The chief effect of it as regards myself, over and 
above the benefit of practice in oral discussion, was that of bringing 



54 JOHN STUART MILL 

me in contact with several young men at that time less advanced 
than myself, among whom, as they professed the same opinions, I 
was for some time a sort of leader, and had considerable influence 
on their mental progress. Any young man of education who fell 
in my way, and whose opinions were not incompatible with those 
of the Society, I endeavoured to press into its service; and some 
others I probably should never have known, had they not joined it. 
Those of the members who became my intimate companions no 
one of whom was in any sense of the word a disciple, but all of 
them independent thinkers on their own basis were William 
Eyton Tooke, son of the eminent political economist, a young man 
of singular worth both moral and intellectual, lost to the world by 
an early death; his friend William Ellis, an original thinker in the 
field of political economy, now honourably known by his apostolic 
exertions for the improvement of education; George Graham, after- 
wards official assignee of the Bankruptcy Court, a thinker of origi- 
nality and power on almost all abstract subjects; and (from the 
time when he came first to England to study for the bar in 1824 
or 1825) a man who has made considerably more noise in the world 
than any of these, John Arthur Roebuck. 

In May, 1823, my professional occupation and status for the next 
thirty-five years of my life, were decided by my father's obtaining 
for me an appointment from the East India Company, in the office 
of the Examiner of India Correspondence, immediately under him- 
self. I was appointed in the usual manner, at the bottom of the 
list of clerks, to rise, at least in the first instance, by seniority; but 
with the understanding that I should be employed from the begin- 
ning in preparing drafts of despatches, and be thus trained up as a 
successor to those who then filled the higher departments of the 
office. My drafts of course required, for some time, much revision 
from my immediate superiors, but I soon became well acquainted 
with the business, and by my father's instructions and the general 
growth of my own powers, I was in a few years qualified to be, and 
practically was, the chief conductor of the correspondence with India 
in one of the leading departments, that of the Native States. This 
continued to be my official duty until I was appointed Examiner, 
only two years before the time when the abolition of the East India 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 55 

Company as a political body determined my retirement. I do not 
know any one of the occupations by which a subsistence can now 
be gained, more suitable than such as this to any one who, not being 
in independent circumstances, desires to devote a part of the twenty- 
four hours to private intellectual pursuits. Writing for the press, 
cannot be recommended as a permanent resource to any one quali- 
fied to accomplish anything in the higher departments of literature 
or thought : not only on account of the uncertainty of this means of 
livelihood, especially if the writer has a conscience, and will not 
consent to serve any opinions except his own; but also because the 
writings by which one can live, are not the writings which them- 
selves live, and are never those in which the writer does his best. 
Books destined to form future thinkers take too much time to write, 
and when written come, in general, too slowly into notice and re- 
pute, to be relied on for subsistence. Those who have to support 
themselves by their pen must depend on literary drudgery, or at 
best on writings addressed to the multitude; and can employ in the 
pursuits of their own choice, only such time as they can spare from 
those of necessity; which is generally less than the leisure allowed 
by office occupations, while the effect on the mind is far more 
enervating and fatiguing. For my own part I have, through life, 
found office duties an actual rest from the other mental occupations 
which I have carried on simultaneously with them. They were suffi- 
ciently intellectual not to be a distasteful drudgery, without being 
such as to cause any strain upon the mental powers of a person 
used to abstract thought, or to the labour of careful literary compo- 
sition. The drawbacks, for every mode of life has its drawbacks, 
were not, however, unfelt by me. I cared little for the loss of the 
chances of riches and honours held out by some of the professions, 
particularly the bar, which had been, as I have already said, the 
profession thought of for me. But I was not indifferent to exclu- 
sion from Parliament, and public life: and I felt very sensibly the 
more immediate unpleasantness of confinement to London; the 
holiday allowed by India-House practice not exceeding a month in 
the year, while my taste was strong for a country life, and my 
sojourn in France had left behind it an ardent desire of travelling. 
But though these tastes could not be freely indulged, they were at 



56 JOHN STUART MILL 

no time entirely sacrificed. I passed most Sundays, throughout the 
year, in the country, taking long rural walks on that day even when 
residing in London. The month's holiday was, for a few years, 
passed at my father's house in the country : afterwards a part or the 
whole was spent in tours, chiefly pedestrian, with some one or more 
of the young men who were my chosen companions; and, at a later 
period, in longer journeys or excursions, alone or with other friends. 
France, Belgium, and Rhenish Germany were within easy reach of 
the annual holiday : and two longer absences, one of three, the other 
of six months, under medical advice, added Switzerland, the Tyrol, 
and Italy to my list. Fortunately, also, both these journeys occurred 
rather early, so as to give the benefit and charm of the remembrance 
to a large portion of life. 

I am disposed to agree with what has been surmised by others, 
that the opportunity which my official position gave me of learning 
by personal observation the necessary conditions of the practical 
conduct of public affairs, has been of considerable value to me as a 
theoretical reformer of the opinions and institutions of my time. 
Not, indeed, that public business transacted on paper, to take effect 
on the other side of the globe, was of itself calculated to give much 
practical knowledge of life. But the occupation accustomed me to 
see and hear the difficulties of every course, and the means of obvi- 
ating them, stated and discussed deliberately with a view to execu- 
tion; it gave me opportunities of perceiving when public measures, 
and other political facts, did not produce the effects which had been 
expected of them, and from what causes; above all, it was valuable 
to me by making me, in this portion of my activity, merely one 
wheel in a machine, the whole of which had to work together. As 
a speculative writer, I should have had no one to consult but myself, 
and should have encountered in my speculations none of the obsta- 
cles which would have started up whenever they came to be applied 
to practice. But as a Secretary conducting political correspondence, 
I could not issue an order or express an opinion, without satisfying 
various persons very unlike myself, that the thing was fit to be done. 
I was thus in a good position for finding out by practice the mode 
of putting a thought which gives it easiest admittance into minds 
not prepared for it by habit; while I became practically conversant 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 57 

with the difficulties of moving bodies of men, the necessities of com- 
promise, the art of sacrificing the non-essential to preserve the essen- 
tial. I learnt how to obtain the best I could, when I could not obtain 
everything; instead of being indignant or dispirited because I could 
not have entirely my own way, to be pleased and encouraged when 
I could have the smallest part of it; and when even that could not 
be, to bear with complete equanimity the being overruled altogether. 
I have found, through life, these acquisitions to be of the greatest 
possible importance for personal happiness, and they are also a very 
necessary condition for enabling any one, either as theorist or as 
practical man, to effect the greatest amount of good compatible with 
his opportunities. 



CHAPTER IV 
YOUTHFUL PROPAGANDISM. THE WESTMINSTER REVIEW 

^ AHE occupation of so much of my time by office work did 
not relax my attention to my own pursuits, which were 
never carried on more vigorously. It was about "this time 
that I began to write in newspapers. The first writings of mine 
which got into print were two letters published towards the end 
of 1822, in the Traveller evening newspaper. The Traveller (which 
afterwards grew into the "Globe and Traveller," by the purchase 
and incorporation of the Globe) was then the property of the well- 
known political economist, Colonel Torrens, and under the editor- 
ship of an able man, Mr. Walter Coulson (who, after being an aman- 
uensis of Mr. Bentham, became a reporter, then an editor, next a 
barrister and conveyancer, and died Counsel to the Home Office), 
it had become one of the most important newspaper organs of Lib- 
eral politics. Colonel Torrens himself wrote much of the political 
economy of his paper; and had at this time made an attack upon 
some opinion of Ricardo and my father, to which, at my father's 
instigation, I attempted an answer, and Coulson, out of consideration 
for my father and goodwill to me, inserted it. There was a reply 
by Torrens, to which I again rejoined. I soon after attempted some- 
thing considerably more ambitious. The prosecutions of Richard 
Carlile and his wife and sister for publications hostile to Chris- 
tianity, were then exciting much attention, and nowhere more than 
among the people I frequented. Freedom of discussion even in 
politics, much more in religion, was at that time far from being, 
even in theory, the conceded point which it at least seems to be now; 
and the holders of obnoxious opinions had to be always ready to 
argue and re-argue for the liberty of expressing them. I wrote a 
series of five letters, under the signature of Wicklifle, going over 
the whole length and breadth of the question of free publication of 
all opinions on religion, and offered them to the Morning Chronicle. 

58 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 59 

Three o them were published in January and February, 1823; the 
other two, containing things too outspoken for that journal, never 
appeared at all. But a paper which I wrote soon after on the 
same subject, a propos of a debate in the House of Commons, was 
inserted as a leading article; and during the whole of this year, 1823, 
a considerable number of my contributions were printed in the 
Chronicle and Traveller : sometimes notices of books but of tener let- 
ters, commenting on some nonsense talked in Parliament, or some 
defect of the law, or misdoings of the magistracy or the courts of 
justice. In this last department the Chronicle was now rendering 
signal service. After the death of Mr. Perry, the editorship and 
management of the paper had devolved on Mr. John Black, long a 
reporter on its establishment; a man of most extensive reading and 
information, great honesty and simplicity of mind; a particular 
friend of my father, imbued with many of his and Bentham's ideas, 
which he reproduced in his articles, among other valuable thoughts, 
with great facility and skill. From this time the Chronicle ceased 
to be the merely Whig organ it was before, and during the next ten 
years became to a considerable extent a vehicle of the opinions of 
the Utilitarian Radicals. This was mainly by what Black himself 
wrote, with some assistance from Fonblanque, who first showed 
his eminent qualities as a writer by articles and jeux d 'esprit in the 
Chronicle. The defects of the law, and of the administration of 
justice, were the subject on which that paper rendered most service 
to improvement. Up to that time hardly a word had been said, 
except by Bentham and my father, against that most peccant part 
of English institutions and of their administration. It was the almost 
universal creed of Englishmen, that the law of England, the judica- 
ture of England, the unpaid magistracy of England, were models 
of excellence. I do not go beyond the mark in saying, that after 
Bentham, who supplied the principal materials, the greatest share 
of the merit of breaking down this wretched superstition belongs 
to Black, as editor of the Morning Chronicle. He kept up an inces- 
sant fire against it, exposing the absurdities and vices of the law and 
the courts of justice, paid and unpaid, until he forced some sense of 
them into people's minds. On many other questions he became the 
organ of opinions much in advance of any which had ever before 



60 JOHN STUART MILL 

found regular advocacy in the newspaper press. Black was a fre- 
quent visitor of my father, and Mr. Grote used to say that he always 
knew by the Monday morning's article, whether Black had been 
with my father on the Sunday. Black was one of the most influen- 
tial of the many channels through which my father's conversation 
and personal influence made his opinions tell on the world; co- 
operating with the effect of his writings in making him a power 
in the country, such as it has rarely been the lot of an individual 
in a private station to be, through the mere force of intellect and 
character: and a power which was often acting the most efficiently 
where it was least seen and suspected. I have already noticed how 
much of what was done by Ricardo, Hume, and Grote, was the 
result, in part, of his prompting and persuasion. He was the good 
genius by the side of Brougham in most of what he did for the 
public, either on education, law reform, or any other subject. And 
his influence flowed in minor streams too numerous to be specified. 
This influence was now about to receive a great extension by the 
foundation of the Westminster Review. 

Contrary to what may have been supposed, my father was in no 
degree a party to setting up the Westminster Review. The need of 
a Radical organ to make head against the Edinburgh and Quarterly 
(then in the period of their greatest reputation and influence), had 
been a topic of conversation between him and Mr. Bentham many 
years earlier, and it had been a part of their Chateau en Espagne that 
my father should be the editor; but the idea had never assumed any 
practical shape. In 1823, however, Mr. Bentham determined to estab- 
lish the Review at his own cost, and offered the editorship to my 
father, who declined it as incompatible with his India House ap- 
pointment. It was then entrusted to Mr. (now Sir John) Bowring, 
at that time a merchant in the City. Mr. Bowring had been for two 
or three years previous an assiduous frequenter of Mr. Bentham, to 
whom he was recommended by many personal good qualities, by 
an ardent admiration for Bentham, a zealous adoption of many, 
though not all of his opinions, and, not least, by an extensive ac- 
quaintanceship and correspondence with Liberals of all countries, 
which seemed to qualify him for being a powerful agent in spreading 
Bentham's fame and doctrines through all quarters of the world. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 6l 

My father had seen little of Bowring, but knew enough of him to 
have formed a strong opinion, that he was a man of an entirely 
different type from what my father considered suitable for conduct- 
ing a political and philosophical Review: and he augured so ill of 
the enterprise that he regretted it altogether, feeling persuaded not 
only that Mr. Bentham would lose his money, but that discredit 
would probably be brought upon Radical principles. He could not, 
however, desert Mr. Bentham, and he consented to write an article 
for the first number. As it had been a favourite portion of the 
scheme formerly talked of, that part of the work should be devoted 
to reviewing the other Reviews, this article of my father's was to 
be a general criticism of the Edinburgh Review from its commence- 
ment. Before writing it he made me read through all the volumes 
of the Review, or as much of each as seemed of any importance 
(which was not so arduous a task in 1823 as it would be now), and 
make notes for him of the articles which I thought he would wish 
to examine, either on account of their good or their bad qualities. 
This paper of my father's was the chief cause of the sensation which 
the Westminster Review produced at its first appearance, and is, 
both in conception and in execution, one of the most striking of all 
his writings. He began by an analysis of the tendencies of periodical 
literature in general; pointing out, that it cannot, like books, wait 
for success, but must succeed immediately, or not at all, and is hence 
almost certain to profess and inculcate the opinions already held by 
the public to which it addresses itself, instead of attempting to rectify 
or improve those opinions. He next, to characterize the position of 
the Edinburgh Review as a political organ, entered into a complete 
analysis, from the Radical point of view, of the British Constitution. 
He held up to notice its thoroughly aristocratic character: the nom- 
ination of a majority of the House of Commons by a few hundred 
families; the entire identification of the more independent portion, 
the county members, with the great landholders; the different classes 
whom this narrow oligarchy was induced, for convenience, to admit 
to a share of power; and finally, what he called its two props, the 
Church, and the legal profession. He pointed out the natural tend- 
ency of an aristocratic body of this composition, to group itself into 
two parties, one of them in possession of the executive, the other 



62 JOHN STUART MILL 

endeavouring to supplant the former and become the predominant 
section by the aid of public opinion, without any essential sacrifice 
of the aristocratical predominance. He described the course likely 
to be pursued, and the political ground occupied, by an aristocratic 
party in opposition, coquetting with popular principles for the sake 
of popular support. He showed how this idea was realized in the 
conduct of the Whig party, and of the Edinburgh Review as its 
chief literary organ. He described, as their main characteristic, what 
he termed "see-saw;" writing alternately on both sides of every 
question which touched the power or interest of the governing 
classes; sometimes in different articles, sometimes in different parts 
of the same article : and illustrated his position by copious specimens. 
So formidable an attack on the Whig party and policy had never 
before been made; nor had so great a blow been ever struck, in this 
country, for Radicalism; nor was there, I believe, any living person 
capable of writing that article, except my father. 1 

In the meantime the nascent Review had formed a junction with 
another project, of a purely literary periodical, to be edited by Mr. 
Henry Southern, afterwards a diplomatist, then a literary man by 
profession. The two editors agreed to unite their corps, and divide 
the editorship, Bowring taking the political, Southern the literary 
department. Southern's Review was to have been published by 
Longman, and that firm, though part proprietors of the Edinburgh, 
were willing to be the publishers of the new journal. But when all 
the arrangements had been made, and the prospectuses sent out, 
the Longmans saw my father's attack on the Edinburgh, and drew 
back. My father was now appealed to for his interest with his own 
publisher, Baldwin, which was exerted with a successful result. 
And so, in April, 1824, amidst anything but hope on my father's 
part, and that of most of those who afterwards aided in carrying on 
the Review, the first number made its appearance. 

That number was an agreeable surprise to most of us. The av- 
erage of the articles was of much better quality than had been 
expected. The literary and artistic department had rested chiefly 

1 The continuation of this article in the second number of the Review was written 
by me under my father's eye, and (except as practice in composition, in which 
respect it was, to me, more useful than anything else I ever wrote) was of little or 
no value. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 63 

on Mr. Bingham, a barrister (subsequently a police magistrate), 
who had been for some years a frequenter of Bentham, was a friend 
of both the Austins, and had adopted with great ardour Mr. Ben- 
tham's philosophical opinions. Partly from accident, there were in 
the first number as many as five articles by Bingham; and we were 
extremely pleased with them. I well remember the mixed feeling 
I myself had about the Review; the joy at finding, what we did not 
at all expect, that it was sufficiently good to be capable of being made 
a creditable organ of those who held the opinions it professed; and 
extreme vexation, since it was so good on the whole, at what we 
thought the blemishes of it. When, however, in addition to our 
generally favourable opinion of it, we learned that it had an extraor- 
dinary large sale for a first number, and found that the appearance 
of a Radical Review, with pretensions equal to those of the estab- 
lished organs of parties, had excited much attention, there could be 
no room for hesitation, and we all became eager in doing everything 
we could to strengthen and improve it. 

My father continued to write occasional articles. The Quarterly 
Review received its exposure, as a sequel to that of the Edinburgh. 
Of his other contributions, the most important were an attack on 
Southey's Book of the Church, in the fifth number, and a political 
article in the twelfth. Mr. Austin only contributed one paper, but 
one of great merit, an argument against primogeniture, in reply to 
an article then lately published in the Edinburgh Review by M'Cul- 
loch. Grote also was a contributor only once; all the time he could 
spare being already taken up with his History of Greece. The 
article he wrote was on his own subject, and was a very complete 
exposure and castigation of Mitford. Bingham and Charles Austin 
continued to write for some time; Fonblanque was a frequent con- 
tributor from the third number. Of my particular associates, Ellis 
was a regular writer up to the ninth number; and about the time 
when he left of!, others of the set began; Eyton, Tooke, Graham, 
and Roebuck. I was myself the most frequent writer of all, having 
contributed, from the second number to the eighteenth, thirteen 
articles; reviews of books on history and political economy, or dis- 
cussions on special political topics, as corn laws, game laws, law of 
libel. Occasional articles of merit came in from other acquaintances 



64 JOHN STUART MILL 

of my father's, and, in time, of mine; and some of Mr. Bo wring's 
writers turned out well. On the whole, however, the conduct of the 
Review was never satisfactory to any of the persons strongly inter- 
ested in its principles, with whom I came in contact. Hardly ever 
did a number come out without containing several things extremely 
offensive to us, either in point of opinion, of taste, or by mere want 
of ability. The unfavourable judgments passed by my father, Grote, 
the two Austins, and others, were re-echoed with exaggeration by 
us younger people; and as our youthful zeal rendered us by no 
means backward in making complaints, we led the two editors a 
sad life. From my knowledge of what I then was, I have no doubt 
that we were at least as often wrong as right; and I am very certain 
that if the Review had been carried on according to our notions (I 
mean those of the juniors), it would have been no better, perhaps 
not even so good as it was. But it is worth noting as a fact in the 
history of Benthamism, that the periodical organ, by which it was 
best known, was from the first extremely unsatisfactory to those 
whose opinions on all subjects it was supposed specially to repre- 
sent. 

Meanwhile, however, the Review made considerable noise in the 
world, and gave a recognised status, in the arena of opinion and 
discussion, to the Benthamic type of Radicalism, out of all proportion 
to the number of its adherents, and to the personal merits and abili- 
ties, at that time, of most of those who could be reckoned among 
them. It was a time, as is known, of rapidly rising Liberalism. 
When the fears and animosities accompanying the war with France 
had been brought to an end, and people had once more a place in 
their thoughts for home politics, the tide began to set towards re- 
form. The renewed oppression of the Continent by the old reign- 
ing families, the countenance apparently given by the English Gov- 
ernment to the conspiracy against liberty called the Holy Alliance, 
and the enormous weight of the national debt and taxation occa- 
sioned by so long and costly a war, rendered the government and 
parliament very unpopular. Radicalism, under the leadership of 
the Burdetts and Cobbetts, had assumed a character and importance 
which seriously alarmed the administration: and their alarm had 
scarcely been temporarily assuaged by the celebrated Six Acts, when 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 65 

the trial o Queen Caroline roused a still wider and deeper feeling 
of hatred. Though the outward signs of this hatred passed away 
with its exciting cause, there arose on all sides a spirit which had 
never shown itself before, of opposition to abuses in detail. Mr. 
Hume's persevering scrutiny of the public expenditure, forcing the 
House of Commons to a division on every objectionable item in 
the estimates, had begun to tell with great force on public opinion, 
and had extorted many minor retrenchments from an unwilling 
administration. Political economy had asserted itself with great 
vigour in public affairs, by the petition of the merchants of London 
for free trade, drawn up in 1820 by Mr. Tooke and presented by 
Mr. Alexander Baring; and by the noble exertions of Ricardo during 
the few years of his parliamentary life. His writings, following up 
the impulse given by the Bullion controversy, and followed up in 
their turn by the expositions and comments of my father and M'Cul- 
loch (whose writings in the Edinburgh Review during those years 
were most valuable), had drawn general attention to the subject, 
making at least partial converts in the Cabinet itself; and Huskisson, 
supported by Canning, had commenced that gradual demolition of 
the protective system, which one of their colleagues virtually com- 
pleted in 1846, though the last vestiges were only swept away by 
Mr. Gladstone in 1860. Mr. Peel, then Home Secretary, was enter- 
ing cautiously into the untrodden and peculiarly Benthamic path 
of Law Reform. At this period when Liberalism seemed to be be- 
coming the tone of the time, when improvement of institutions was 
preached from the highest places, and a complete change of the con- 
stitution of parliament was loudly demanded in the lowest, it is not 
strange that attention should have been roused by the regular ap- 
pearance in controversy of what seemed a new school of writers, 
claiming to be the legislators and theorists of this new tendency. 
The air of strong conviction with which they wrote, when scarcely 
any one else seemed to have an equally strong faith in as definite 
a creed; the boldness with which they tilted against the very front 
of both the existing political parties; their uncompromising profes- 
sion of opposition to many of the generally received opinions, and 
the suspicion they lay under of holding others still more heterodox 
than they professed; the talent and verve of at least my father's 



66 JOHN STUART MILL 

articles, and the appearance of a corps behind him sufficient to 
carry on a Review; and finally, the fact that the Review was bought 
and read, made the so-called Bentham school in philosophy and 
politics fill a greater place in the public mind than it had held 
before, or has ever again held since other equally earnest schools 
of thought have arisen in England. As I was in the headquarters of 
it, knew of what it was composed, and as one of the most active 
of its very small number, might say without undue assumption, 
quorum pars magna jui, it belongs to me more than to most others, 
to give some account of it. 

This supposed school, then, had no other existence than what was 
constituted by the fact, that my father's writings and conversation 
drew round him a certain number of young men who had already 
imbibed, or who imbibed from him, a greater or smaller portion 
of his very decided political and philosophical opinions. The notion 
that Bentham was surrounded by a band of disciples who received 
their opinions from his lips, is a fable to which my father did justice 
in his "Fragment on Mackintosh," and which, to all who knew 
Mr. Bentham's habits of life and manner of conversation, is simply 
ridiculous. The influence which Bentham exercised was by his 
writings. Through them he has produced, and is producing, effects 
on the condition of mankind, wider and deeper, no doubt, than any 
which can be attributed to my father. He is a much greater name 
in history. But my father exercised a far greater personal ascend- 
ancy. He was sought for the vigour and instructiveness of his con- 
versation, and did use it largely as an instrument for the diffusion 
of his opinions. I have never known any man who could do such 
ample justice to his best thoughts in colloquial discussion. His 
perfect command over his great mental resources, the terseness and 
expressiveness of his language and the moral earnestness as well as 
intellectual force of his delivery, made him one of the most striking 
of all argumentative conversers: and he was full of anecdote, a 
hearty laugher, and, when with people whom he liked, a most lively 
and amusing companion. It was not solely, or even chiefly, in dif- 
fusing his merely intellectual convictions that his power showed 
itself: it was still more through the influence of a quality, of which I 
have only since learnt to appreciate the extreme rarity: that exalted 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 67 

public spirit, and regard above all things to the good of the whole, 
which warmed into life and activity every germ of similar virtue 
that existed in the minds he came in contact with : the desire he made 
them feel for his approbation, the shame at his disapproval; the 
moral support which his conversation and his very existence gave to 
those who were aiming at the same objects, and the encouragement 
he afforded to the fainthearted or desponding among them, by the 
firm confidence which (though the reverse of sanguine as to the 
results to be expected in any one particular case) he always felt in 
the power of reason, the general progress of improvement, and the 
good which individuals could do by judicious effort. 

It was my father's opinions which gave the distinguishing char- 
acter to the Benthamic or utilitarian propagandism of that time. 
They fell singly, scattered from him, in many directions, but they 
flowed from him in a continued stream principally in three chan- 
nels. One was through me, the only mind directly formed by his 
instructions, and through whom considerable influence was exercised 
over various young men, who became, in their turn, propagandists. 
A second was through some of the Cambridge contemporaries of 
Charles Austin, who, either initiated by him or under the general 
mental impulse which he gave, had adopted many opinions allied 
to those of my father, and some of the more considerable of whom 
afterwards sought my father's acquaintance and frequented his 
house. Among these may be mentioned Strutt, afterwards Lord 
Belper, and the present Lord Romilly, with whose eminent father, 
Sir Samuel, my father had of old been on terms of friendship. The 
third channel was that of a younger generation of Cambridge under- 
graduates, contemporary, not with Austin, but with Eyton Tooke, 
who were drawn to that estimable person by affinity of opinions, 
and introduced by him to my father : the most notable of these was 
Charles Buller. Various other persons individually received and 
transmitted a considerable amount of my father's influence: for ex- 
ample, Black (as before mentioned) and Fonblanque : most of these, 
however, we accounted only partial allies; Fonblanque, for instance, 
was always divergent from us on many important points. But 
indeed there was by no means complete unanimity among any por- 
tion of us, nor had any of us adopted implicitly all my father's opin- 



68 JOHN STUART MILL 

ions. For example, although his Essay on Government was regarded 
probably by all of us as a masterpiece of political wisdom, our adhe- 
sion by no means extended to the paragraph of it, in which he main- 
tains that women may consistently with good government, be ex- 
cluded from the suffrage, because their interest is the same with that 
of men. From this doctrine, I, and all those who formed my 
chosen associates, most positively dissented. It is due to my father 
to say that he denied having intended to affirm that women should 
be excluded any more than men under the age of forty, concerning 
whom he maintained, in the very next paragraph, an exactly similar 
thesis. He was, as he truly said, not discussing whether the suffrage 
had better be restricted, but only (assuming that it is to be restricted) 
what is the utmost limit of restriction, which does not necessarily 
involve a sacrifice of the securities for good government. But I 
thought then, as I have always thought since, that the opinion which 
he acknowledged, no less than that which he disclaimed, is as great 
an error as any of those against which the Essay was directed; that 
the interest of women is included in that of men exactly as much 
and no more, as the interest of subjects is included in that of kings; 
and that every reason which exists for giving the suffrage to any- 
body, demands that it should not be withheld from women. This 
was also the general opinion of the younger proselytes; and it is 
pleasant to be able to say that Mr. Bentham, on this important point, 
was wholly on our side. 

But though none of us, probably, agreed in every respect with my 
father, his opinions, as I said before, were the principal element 
which gave its colour and character to the little group of young men 
who were the first propagators of what was afterwards called "Philo- 
sophic Radicalism." Their mode of thinking was not characterized 
by Benthamism in any sense which has relation to Bentham as a 
chief or guide, but rather by a combination of Bentham's point of 
view with that of the modern political economy, and with the 
Hartleian metaphysics. Malthus's population principle was quite 
as much a banner, and point of union among us, as any opinion 
specially belonging to Bentham. This great doctrine, originally 
brought forward as an argument against the indefinite improvability 
of human afTairs, we took up with ardent zeal in the contrary sense. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 69 

as indicating the sole means of realizing that improvability by se- 
curing full employment at high wages to the whole labouring pop- 
ulation through a voluntary restriction of the increase of their num- 
bers. The other leading characteristics of the creed, which we held 
in common with my father, may be stated as follows: 

In politics, an almost unbounded confidence in the efficacy of two 
things : representative government, and complete freedom of discus- 
sion. So complete was my father's reliance on the influence of reason 
over the minds of mankind, whenever it is allowed to reach them, 
that he felt as if all would be gained if the whole population were 
taught to read, if all sorts of opinions were allowed to be addressed 
to them by word and in writing, and if by means of the suffrage 
they could nominate a legislature to give effect to the opinions they 
adopted. He thought that when the legislature no longer repre- 
sented a class interest, it would aim at the general interest honestly, 
and with adequate wisdom; since the people would be sufficiently 
under the guidance of educated intelligence, to make in general a 
good choice of persons to represent them, and having done so, to 
leave to those whom they had chosen a liberal discretion. Accord- 
ingly aristocratic rule, the government of the Few in any of its 
shapes, being in his eyes the only thing which stood between man- 
kind and an administration of their affairs by the best wisdom to 
be found among them, was the object of his sternest disapprobation, 
and a democratic suffrage the principal article of his political creed, 
not on the ground of liberty, Rights of Man, or any of the phrases, 
more or less significant, by which, up to that time, democracy had 
usually been defended, but as the most essential of "securities for 
good government." In this, too, he held fast only to what he deemed 
essentials; he was comparatively indifferent to monarchical or re- 
publican forms far more so than Bentham, to whom a king, in the 
character of "corrupter-general," appeared necessarily very noxious. 
Next to aristocracy, an established church, or corporation of priests, 
as being by position the great depravers of religion, and interested 
in opposing the progress of the human mind, was the object of his 
greatest detestation; though he disliked no clergyman personally 
who did not deserve it, and was on terms of sincere friendship with 
several. In ethics, his moral feelings were energetic and rigid on all 



70 JOHN STUART MILL 

points which he deemed important to human well being, while he 
was supremely indifferent in opinion (though his indifference did 
not show itself in personal conduct) to all those doctrines of the 
common morality, which he thought had no foundation but in as- 
ceticism and priest-craft. He looked forward, for example, to a 
considerable increase of freedom in the relations between the sexes, 
though without pretending to define exactly what would be, or 
ought to be, the precise conditions of that freedom. This opinion 
was connected in him with no sensuality either of a theoretical or of 
a practical kind. He anticipated, on the contrary, as one of the 
beneficial effects of increased freedom, that the imagination would 
no longer dwell upon the physical relation and its adjuncts, and 
swell this into one of the principal objects of life; a perversion of the 
imagination and feelings, which he regarded as one of the deepest 
seated and most pervading evils in the human mind. In psychology, 
his fundamental doctrine was the formation of all human character 
by circumstances, through the universal Principle of Association, 
and the consequent unlimited possibility of improving the moral 
and intellectual condition of mankind by education. Of all his doc- 
trines none was more important than this, or needs more to be in- 
sisted on: unfortunately there is none which is more contradictory 
to the prevailing tendencies of speculation, both in his time and 
since. 

These various opinions were seized on with youthful fanaticism 
by the little knot of young men of whom I was one: and we put 
into them a sectarian spirit, from which, in intention at least, my 
father was wholly free. What we (or rather a phantom substituted 
in the place of us) were sometimes by a ridiculous exaggeration, 
called by others, namely a "school," some of us for a time really 
hoped and aspired to be. The French philosophes of the eighteenth 
century were the example we sought to imitate, and we hoped to 
accomplish no less results. No one of the set went to so great ex- 
cesses in this boyish ambition as I did; which might be shown by 
many particulars, were it not an useless waste of space and time. 

All this, however, is properly only the outside of our existence; 
or, at least, the intellectual part alone, and no more than one side 
of that. In attempting to penetrate inward, and give any indication 



RARY 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 71 

of what we were as human beings, I must be understood as speaking 
only of myself, of whom alone I can speak from sufficient knowl- 
edge; and I do not believe that the picture would suit any of my 
companions without many and great modifications. 

I conceive that the description so often given of a Benthamite, 
as a mere reasoning machine, though extremely inapplicable to most 
of those who have been designated by that title, was during two or 
three years of my life not altogether untrue of me. It was perhaps 
as applicable to me as it can well be to any one just entering into life, 
to whom the common objects of desire must in general have at least 
the attraction of novelty. There is nothing very extraordinary in 
this fact; no youth of the age I then was, can be expected to be 
more than one thing, and this was the thing I happened to be. Am- 
bition and desire of distinction, I had in abundance; and zeal for 
what I thought the good of mankind was my strongest sentiment, 
mixing with and colouring all others. But my zeal was as yet little 
else, at that period of my life, than zeal for speculative opinions. 
It had not its root in genuine benevolence, or sympathy with man- 
kind; though these qualities held their due place in my ethical stand- 
ard. Nor was it connected with any high enthusiasm for ideal noble- 
ness. Yet of this feeling I was imaginatively very susceptible; but 
there was at that time an intermission of its natural aliment, poetical 
culture, while there was a superabundance of the discipline antago- 
nistic to it, that of mere logic and analysis. Add to this that, as 
already mentioned, my father's teachings tended to the undervaluing 
of feeling. It was not that he was himself cold-hearted or insensible; 
I believe it was rather from the contrary quality; he thought that 
feeling could take care of itself; that there was sure to be enough 
of it if actions were properly cared about. Offended by the frequency 
with which, in ethical and philosophical controversy, feeling is made 
the ultimate reason and justification of conduct, instead of being 
itself called on for a justification, while, in practice, actions the 
effect of which on human happiness is mischievous, are defended 
as being required by feeling, and the character of a person of feeling 
obtains a credit for desert, which he thought only due to actions, 
he had a real impatience of attributing praise to feeling, or of any 
but the most sparing reference to it, either in the estimation of per- 



72 JOHN STUART MILL 

sons or in the discussion of things. In addition to the influence 
which this characteristic in him, had on me and others, we found 
all the opinions to which we attached most importance, constantly 
attacked on the ground of feeling. Utility was denounced as cold 
calculation; political economy as hard-hearted; anti-population doc- 
trines as repulsive to the natural feelings of mankind. We retorted 
by the word "sentimentality," which, along with "declamation" and 
"vague generalities," served us as common terms of opprobrium. 
Although we were generally in the right, as against those who 
were opposed to us, the effect was that the cultivation of feeling 
(except the feelings of public and private duty), was not in much 
esteem among us, and had very little place in the thoughts of most 
of us, myself in particular. What we principally thought of, was to 
alter people's opinions; to make them believe according to evidence, 
and know what was their real interest, which when they once knew, 
they would, we thought, by the instrument of opinion, enforce a 
regard to it upon one another. While fully recognising the superior 
excellence of unselfish benevolence and love of justice, we did not 
expect the regeneration of mankind from any direct action on those 
sentiments, but from the effect of educated intellect, enlightening 
the selfish feelings. Although this last is prodigiously important as a 
means of improvement in the hands of those who are themselves 
impelled by nobler principles of action, I do not believe that any 
one of the survivors of the Benthamites or Utilitarians of that day, 
now relies mainly upon it for the general amendment of human 
conduct. 

From this neglect both in theory and in practice of the cultivation 
of feeling, naturally resulted, among other things, an undervaluing 
of poetry, and of Imagination generally, as an element of human 
nature. It is, or was, part of the popular notion of Benthamites, that 
they are enemies of poetry: this was partly true of Bentham himself; 
he used to say that "all poetry is misrepresentation:" but in the 
sense in which he said it, the same might have been said of all im- 
pressive speech; of all representation or inculcation more oratorical 
in its character than a sum in arithmetic. An article of Bingham's 
in the first number of the Westminster Review, in which he offered 
as an explanation of something which he disliked in Moore, that 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 73 

"Mr. Moore is a poet, and therefore is not a reasoner," did a good 
deal to attach the notion of hating poetry to the writers in the Re- 
view. But the truth was that many of us were great readers of 
poetry; Bingham himself had been a writer of it, while as regards 
me (and the same thing might be said of my father), the correct 
statement would be, not that I disliked poetry, but that I was 
theoretically indifferent to it. I disliked any sentiments in poetry 
which I should have disliked in prose; and that included a great 
deal. And I was wholly blind to its place in human culture, as a 
means of educating the feelings. But I was always personally very 
susceptible to some kinds of it. In the most sectarian period of my 
Benthamism, I happened to look into Pope's Essay on Man, and 
though every opinion in it was contrary to mine, I well remember 
how powerfully it acted on my imagination. Perhaps at that time 
poetical composition of any higher type than eloquent discussion in 
verse, might not have produced a similar effect on me: at all events 
I seldom gave it an opportunity. This, however, was a mere passive 
state. Long before I had enlarged in any considerable degree, the 
basis of my intellectual creed, I had obtained in the natural course of 
my mental progress, poetic culture of the most valuable kind, by 
means of reverential admiration for the lives and characters of 
heroic persons; especially the heroes of philosophy. The same in- 
spiring effect which so many of the benefactors of mankind have 
left on record that they had experienced from Plutarch's Lives, was 
produced on me by Plato's pictures of Socrates, and by some modern 
biographies, above all by Condorcet's Life of Turgot; a book well 
calculated to rouse the best sort of enthusiasm, since it contains one 
of the wisest and noblest of lives, delineated by one of the wisest 
and noblest of men. The heroic virtue of these glorious representa- 
tives of the opinions with which I sympathized, deeply affected me, 
and I perpetually recurred to them as others do to a favourite poet, 
when needing to be carried up into the more elevated regions of 
feeling and thought. I may observe by the way that this book cured 
me of my sectarian follies. The two or three pages beginning "II 
regardait toute secte comme nuisible," and explaining why Turgot 
always kept himself perfectly distinct from the Encyclopedists, sank 
deeply into my mind. 1 left off designating myself and others as 



74 JOHN STUART MILL 

Utilitarians, and by the pronoun "we" or any other collective desig- 
nation, I ceased to afficher sectarianism. My real inward sectarian- 
ism I did not get rid of till later, and much more gradually. 

About the end of 1824, or beginning of 1825, Mr. Bentham, having 
lately got back his papers on Evidence from M. Dumont, whose 
Traite des Preuves Judiciaires, grounded on them, was then first 
completed and published, resolved to have them printed in the 
original, and bethought himself of me as capable of preparing them 
for the press; in the same manner as his Book of Fallacies had been 
recently edited by Bingham. I gladly undertook this task, and it 
occupied nearly all my leisure for about a year, exclusive of the time 
afterwards spent in seeing the five large volumes through the press. 
Mr. Bentham had begun this treatise three times, at considerable 
intervals, each time in a different manner, and each time without 
reference to the preceding: two of the three times he had gone over 
nearly the whole subject. 

These three masses of manuscript it was my business to condense 
into a single treatise; adopting the one last written as the ground- 
work, and incorporating with it as much of the two others as it had 
not completely superseded. I had also to unroll such of Bentham's 
involved and parenthetical sentences, as seemed to overpass by their 
complexity the measure of what readers were likely to take the pains 
to understand. It was further Mr. Bentham's particular desire that 
I should, from myself, endeavour to supply any lacunce which he 
had left; and at his instance I read, for this purpose, the most authori- 
tative treatises on the English Law of Evidence, and commented on 
a few of the objectionable points of the English rules, which had 
escaped Bentham's notice. I also replied to the objections which had 
been made to some of his doctrines by reviewers of Dumont's book, 
and added a few supplementary remarks on some of the more ab- 
stract parts of the subject, such as the theory of improbability and 
impossibility. The controversial part of these editorial additions 
was written in a more assuming tone than became one so young 
and inexperienced as I was: but indeed I had never contemplated 
coming forward in my own person; and as an anonymous editor of 
Bentham, I fell into the tone of my author, not thinking it unsuit- 
able to him or to the subject, however it might be so to me. My 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 75 

name as editor was put to the book after it was printed, at Mr. 
Bentham's positive desire, which I in vain attempted to persuade him 
to forego. 

The time occupied in this editorial work was extremely well em- 
ployed in respect to my own improvement. The "Rationale or Ju- 
dicial Evidence" is one of the richest in matter of all Bentham's pro- 
ductions. The theory of evidence being in itself one of the most 
important of his subjects, and ramifying into most of the others, the 
book contains, very fully developed, a great proportion of all his 
best thoughts: while, among more special things, it comprises the 
most elaborate exposure of the vices and defects of English law, as 
it then was, which is to be found in his works; not confined to the 
law of evidence, but including, by way of illustrative episode, the 
entire procedure or practice of Westminster Hall. The direct knowl- 
edge, therefore, which I obtained from the book, and which was 
imprinted upon me much more thoroughly than it could have 
been by mere reading, was itself no small acquisition. But this 
occupation did for me what might seem less to be expected; it gave 
a great start to my powers of composition. Everything which I wrote 
subsequently to this editorial employment, was markedly superior 
to anything that I had written before it. Bentham's later style, as the 
world knows, was heavy and cumbersome, from the excess of a 
good quality, the love of precision, which made him introduce clause 
within clause into the heart of every sentence, that the reader might 
receive into his mind all the modifications and qualifications simul- 
taneously with the main proposition: and the habit grew on him 
until his sentences became, to those not accustomed to them, most 
laborious reading. But his earlier style, that of the Fragment on 
Government, Plan of a Judicial Establishment, &c., is a model of 
liveliness and ease combined with fulness of matter, scarcely ever 
surpassed: and of this earlier style there were many striking speci- 
mens in the manuscripts on Evidence, all of which I endeavoured 
to preserve. So long a course of this admirable writing had a con- 
siderable effect upon my own; and I added to it by the assiduous 
reading of other writers, both French and English, who combined 
in a remarkable degree, ease with force, such as Goldsmith, Fielding, 
Pascal, Voltaire, and Courier. Through these influences my writing 



76 JOHN STUART MILL 

lost the jejuneness of my early compositions; the bones and cartilages 
began to clothe themselves with flesh, and the style became, at times, 
lively and almost light. 

This improvement was first exhibited in a new field. Mr. Mar- 
shall, of Leeds, father of the present generation of Marshalls, the 
same who was brought into Parliament for Yorkshire, when the 
representation forfeited by Grampound was transferred to it, an 
earnest parliamentary reformer, and a man of large fortune, of 
which he made a liberal use, had been much struck with Bentham's 
Book of Fallacies; and the thought had occurred to him that it would 
be useful to publish annually the Parliamentary Debates, not in the 
chronological order of Hansard, but classified according to subjects, 
and accompanied by a commentary pointing out the fallacies of the 
speakers. With this intention, he very naturally addressed himself 
to the editor of the Book of Fallacies; and Bingham, with the assist- 
ance of Charles Austin, undertook the editorship. The work was 
called "Parliamentary History and Review." Its sale was not suffi- 
cient to keep it in existence, and it only lasted three years. It excited, 
however, some attention among parliamentary and political people. 
The best strength of the party was put forth in it; and its execution 
did them much more credit than that of the Westminster Review 
had ever done. Bingham and Charles Austin wrote much in it; as 
did Strutt, Romilly, and several other Liberal lawyers. My father 
wrote one article in his best style; the elder Austin another. Coulson 
wrote one of great merit. It fell to my lot to lead off the first num- 
ber by an article on the principal topic of the session (that of 1825), 
the Catholic Association and the Catholic Disabilities. In the second 
number I wrote an elaborate Essay on the Commercial Crisis of 
1825 and the Currency Debates. In the third I had two articles, one 
on a minor subject, the other on the Reciprocity principle in com- 
merce, a propos of a celebrated diplomatic correspondence between 
Canning and Gallatin. These writings were no longer mere repro- 
ductions and applications of the doctrines I had been taught; they 
were original thinking, as far as that name can be applied to old 
ideas in new forms and connexions: and I do not exceed the truth 
in saying that there was a maturity, and a well-digested character 
about them, which there had not been in any of my previous per- 






AUTOBIOGRAPHY 77 

formances. In execution, therefore, they were not at all juvenile; 
but their subjects, had either gone by, or have been so much better 
treated since, that they are entirely superseded, and should remain 
buried in the same oblivion with my contributions to the first dy- 
nasty of the Westminster Review. 

While thus engaged in writing for the public, I did not neglect 
other modes of self-cultivation. It was at this time that I learnt 
German; beginning it on the Hamiltonian method, for which pur- 
pose I and several of my companions formed a class. For several 
years from this period, our social studies assumed a shape which 
contributed very much to my mental progress. The idea occurred 
to us of carrying on, by reading and conversation, a joint study of 
several of the branches of science which we wished to be masters of. 
We assembled to the number of a dozen or more. Mr. Grote lent a 
room of his house in Threadneedle Street for the purpose, and his 
partner, Prescott, one of the three original members of the Utilitarian 
Society, made one among us. We met two mornings in every week, 
from half-past eight till ten, at which hour most of us were called 
off to our daily occupations. Our first subject was Political Economy. 
We chose some systematic treatise as our text-book; my father's 
"Elements" being our first choice. One of us read aloud a chapter, 
or some smaller portion of the book. The discussion was then 
opened, and any one who had an objection, or other remark to 
make, made it. Our rule was to discuss thoroughly every point 
raised, whether great or small, prolonging the discussion until all 
who took part were satisfied with the conclusion they had indi- 
vidually arrived at; and to follow up every topic of collateral specu- 
lation which the chapter or the conversation suggested, never leaving 
it until we had untied every knot which we found. We repeatedly 
kept up the discussion of some one point for several weeks, thinking 
intently on it during the intervals of our meetings, and contriving 
solutions of the new difficulties which had risen up in the last morn- 
ing's discussion. When we had finished in this way my father's 
Elements, we went in the same manner through Ricardo's Principles 
of Political Economy, and Bailey's Dissertations on Value. These 
close and vigorous discussions were not only improving in a high 
degree to those who took part in them, but brought out new views 



78 JOHN STUART MILL 

of some topics of abstract Political Economy. The theory of Inter- 
national Values which I afterwards published, emanated from these 
conversations, as did also the modified form of Ricardo's theory of 
Profits, laid down in my Essay on Profits and Interest. Those among 
us with whom new speculations chiefly originated, were Ellis, 
Graham, and I; though others gave valuable aid to the discussions, 
especially Prescott and Roebuck, the one by his knowledge, the 
other by his dialectical acuteness. The theories of International Val- 
ues and of Profits were excogitated and worked out in about equal 
proportions by myself and Graham: and if our original project had 
been executed, my "Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political 
Economy" would have been brought out along with some papers 
of his, under our joint names. But when my exposition came to 
be written, I found that I had so much over-estimated my agreement 
with him, and he dissented so much from the most original of the 
two Essays, that on International Values, that I was obliged to con- 
sider the theory as now exclusively mine, and it came out as such 
when published many years later. I may mention that among the 
alterations which my father made in revising his Elements for the 
third edition, several were founded on criticisms elicited by these 
conversations; and in particular he modified his opinions (though 
not to the extent of our new speculations) on both the points to 
which I have adverted. 

When we had enough of political economy, we took up the syllo- 
gistic logic in the same manner, Grote now joining us. Our first 
text-book was Aldrich, but being disgusted with its superficiality, 
we reprinted one of the most finished among the many manuals of 
the school logic, which my father, a great collector of such books, 
possessed, the Manuductio ad Logicam of the Jesuit Du Trieu. 
After finishing this, we took up Whately's Logic, then first repub- 
lished from the Encyclopaedia Metropolitan, and finally the "Com- 
putatio sive Logica" of Hobbes. These books, dealt with in our 
manner, afforded a wide range for original metaphysical specula- 
tion: and most of what has been done in the First Book of my 
System of Logic, to rationalize and correct the principles and dis- 
tinctions of the school logicians, and to improve the theory of the 
Import of Propositions, had its origin in these discussions; Graham 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 79 

and I originating most of the novelties, while Grote and others fur- 
nished an excellent tribunal or test. From this time I formed the 
project of writing a book on Logic, though on a much humbler 
scale than the one I ultimately executed. 

Having done with Logic, we launched into Analytic Psychology, 
and having chosen Hartley for our text-book, we raised Priestley's 
edition to an extravagant price by searching through London to 
furnish each of us with a copy. When we had finished Hartley, 
we suspended our meetings; but my father's Analysis of the Mind 
being published soon after, we reassembled for the purpose of 
reading it. With this our exercises ended. I have always dated from 
these conversations my own real inauguration as an original and 
independent thinker. It was also through them that I acquired, or 
very much strengthened, a mental habit to which I attribute all that 
I have ever done, or ever shall do, in speculation; that of never 
accepting half-solutions of difficulties as complete; never abandoning 
a puzzle, but again and again returning to it until it was cleared 
up; never allowing obscure corners of a subject to remain unex- 
plored, because they did not appear important; never thinking that 
I perfectly understood any part of a subject until I understood the 
whole. 

Our doings from 1825 to 1830 in the way of public speaking, 
filled a considerable place in my life during those years, and as they 
had important effects on my development, something ought to be 
said of them. 

There was for some time in existence a society of Owenites, called 
the Co-operation Society, which met for weekly public discussions in 
Chancery Lane. In the early part of 1825, accident brought Roebuck 
in contact with several of its members, and led to his attending one 
or two of the meetings and taking part in the debate in opposition 
to Owenism. Some one of us started the notion of going there in 
a body and having a general battle; and Charles Austin and some 
of his friends who did not usually take part in our joint exercises, 
entered into the project. It was carried out by concert with the 
principal members of the Society, themselves nothing loth, as they 
naturally preferred a controversy with opponents to a tame discus- 
sion among their own body. The question of population was pro- 



80 JOHN STUART MILL 

posed as the subject of debate: Charles Austin led the case on our 
side with a brilliant speech, and the fight was kept up by adjourn- 
ment through five or six weekly meetings before crowded auditories, 
including along with the members of the Society and their friends, 
many hearers and some speakers from the Inns of Court. When this 
debate was ended, another was commenced on the general merits 
of Owen's system: and the contest altogether lasted about three 
months. It was a lutte corps a corps between Owenites and political 
economists, whom the Owenites regarded as their most inveterate 
opponents: but it was a perfectly friendly dispute. We who repre- 
sented political economy, had the same objects in view as they had, 
and took pains to show it; and the principal champion on their side 
was a very estimable man, with whom I was well acquainted, Mr. 
William Thompson, of Cork, author of a book on the Distribution 
of Wealth, and of an "Appeal" in behalf of women against the 
passage relating to them in my father's Essay on Government. 
Ellis, Roebuck, and I took an active part in the debate, and among 
those from the Inns of Court who joined in it, I remember Charles 
Villiers. The other side obtained also, on the population question, 
very efficient support from without. The well-known Gale-Jones, 
then an elderly man, made one of his florid speeches; but the speaker 
with whom I was most struck, though I dissented from nearly every 
word he said, was Thirlwall, the historian, since Bishop of St. 
David's, then a Chancery barrister, unknown except by a high repu- 
tation for eloquence acquired at the Cambridge Union before the 
era of Austin and Macaulay. His speech was in answer to one of 
mine. Before he had uttered ten sentences, I set him down as the 
best speaker I had ever heard, and I have never since heard any one 
whom I placed above him. 

The great interest of these debates predisposed some of those who 
took part in them, to catch at a suggestion thrown out by M'Culloch, 
the political economist, that a Society was wanted in London similar 
to the Speculative Society of Edinburgh, in which Brougham, Hor- 
ner, and others first cultivated public speaking. Our experience at 
the Co-operative Society seemed to give cause for being sanguine 
as to the sort of men who might be brought together in London for 
such a purpose. M'Culloch mentioned the matter to several young 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 8 1 

men of influence, to whom he was then giving private lessons in 
political economy. Some of these entered warmly into the project, 
particularly George Villiers, afterwards Earl of Clarendon. He 
and his brothers, Hyde and Charles, Romilly, Charles Austin and I, 
with some others, met and agreed on a plan. We determined to 
meet once a fortnight from November to June, at the Freemasons' 
Tavern, and we had soon a fine list of members, containing, along 
with several members of Parliament, nearly all the most noted 
speakers of the Cambridge Union and of the Oxford United Debat- 
ing Society. It is curiously illustrative of the tendencies of the time, 
that our principal difficulty in recruiting for the Society was to find 
a sufficient number of Tory speakers. Almost all whom we could 
press into the service were Liberals, of different orders and degrees. 
Besides those already named, we had Macaulay, Thirlwall, Praed, 
Lord Howick, Samuel Wilberforce (afterwards Bishop of Oxford), 
Charles Poulett Thomson (afterwards Lord Sydenham), Edward 
and Henry Lytton Bulwer, Fonblanque, and many others whom 
I cannot now recollect, but who made themselves afterwards more 
or less conspicuous in public or literary life. Nothing could seem 
more promising. But when the time for action drew near, and it 
was necessary to, fix on a President, and find somebody to open the 
first debate, none of our celebrities would consent to perform either 
office. Of the many who were pressed on the subject, the only one 
who could be prevailed on was a man of whom I knew very little, 
but who had taken high honours at Oxford and was said to have 
acquired a great oratorical reputation there; who some time after- 
wards became a Tory member of Parliament. He accordingly was 
fixed on, both for filling the President's chair and for making the 
first speech. The important day arrived; the benches were crowded; 
all our great speakers were present, to judge of, but not to help 
our efforts. The Oxford orator's speech was a complete failure. 
This threw a damp on the whole concern: the speakers who fol- 
lowed were few, and none of them did their best; the affair was a 
complete fiasco; and the oratorical celebrities we had counted on 
went away never to return, giving to me at least a lesson in knowl- 
edge of the world. This unexpected breakdown altered my whole 
relation to the project. I had not anticipated taking a prominent 



82 JOHN STUART MILL 

part, or speaking much or often, particularly at first, but I now saw 
that the success of the scheme depended on the new men, and I put 
my shoulder to the wheel. I opened the second question, and from 
that time spoke in nearly every debate. It was very uphill work 
for some time. The three Villiers and Romilly stuck to us for some 
time longer, but the patience of all the founders of the Society was 
at last exhausted, except me and Roebuck. In the season following, 
1826-7, things began to mend. We had acquired two excellent Tory 
speakers, Hayward and Shee (afterwards Sergeant Shee) : the Rad- 
ical side was reinforced by Charles Buller, Cockburn, and others of 
the second generation of Cambridge Benthamites; and with their 
and other occasional aid, and the two Tories as well as Roebuck 
and me for regular speakers, almost every debate was a bataille 
ran gee between the "philosophic Radicals" and the Tory lawyers; 
until our conflicts were talked about, and several persons of note 
and consideration came to hear us. This happened still more in the 
subsequent seasons, 1828 and 1829, when the Coleridgians, in the 
persons of Maurice and Sterling, made their appearance in the 
Society as a second Liberal and even Radical party, on totally dif- 
ferent grounds from Benthamism and vehemently opposed to it; 
bringing into these discussions the general doctrines and modes of 
thought of the European reaction against the philosophy of the 
eighteenth century; and adding a third and very important belliger- 
ent party to our contests, which were now no bad exponent of the 
movement of opinion among the most cultivated part of the new 
generation. Our debates were very different from those of common 
debating societies, for they habitually consisted of the strongest argu- 
ments and most philosophic principles which either side was able to 
produce, thrown often into close and serre confutations of one an- 
other. The practice was necessarily very useful to us, and eminently 
so to me. I never, indeed, acquired real fluency, and had always a 
bad and ungraceful delivery; but I could make myself listened to: 
and as I always wrote my speeches when, from the feelings involved, 
or the nature of the ideas to be developed, expression seemed impor- 
tant, I greatly increased my power of effective writing; acquiring 
not only an ear for smoothness and rhythm, but a practical sense for 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 83 

telling sentences, and an immediate criterion of their telling prop- 
erty, by their effect on a mixed audience. 

The Society, and the preparation for it, together with the prep- 
aration for the morning conversations which were going on simul- 
taneously, occupied the greater part of my leisure; and made me 
feel it a relief when, in the spring of 1828, I ceased to write for the 
Westminster. The Review had fallen into difficulties. Though the 
sale of the first number had been very encouraging, the permanent 
sale had never, I believe, been sufficient to pay the expenses, on the 
scale on which the Review was carried on. Those expenses had been 
considerably, but not sufficiently, reduced. One of the editors, South- 
ern, had resigned; and several of the writers, including my father 
and me, who had been paid like other contributors for our earlier 
articles, had latterly written without payment. Nevertheless, the 
original funds were nearly or quite exhausted, and if the Review 
was to be continued some new arrangement of its affairs had become 
indispensable. My father and I had several conferences with Bow- 
ring on the subject. We were willing to do our utmost for main- 
taining the Review as an organ of our opinions, but not under 
Bowring's editorship: while the impossibility of its any longer 
supporting a paid editor, afforded a ground on which, without 
affront to him, we could propose to dispense with his services. We 
and some of our friends were prepared to carry on the Review as 
unpaid writers, either finding among ourselves an unpaid editor, or 
sharing the editorship among us. But while this negotiation was pro- 
ceeding with Bowring's apparent acquiescence, he was carrying on 
another in a different quarter (with Colonel Perronet Thompson), 
of which we received the first intimation in a letter from Bowring 
as editor, informing us merely that an arrangement had been made, 
and proposing to us to write for the next number, with promise of 
payment. We did not dispute Bowring's right to bring about, if he 
could, an arrangement more favourable to himself than the one we 
had proposed; but we thought the concealment which he had prac- 
tised towards us, while seemingly entering into our own project, an 
affront: and even had we not thought so, we were indisposed to 
expend any more of our time and trouble in attempting to write 



84 JOHN STUART MILL 

up the Review under his management. Accordingly my father 
excused himself from writing; though two or three years later, on 
great pressure, he did write one more political article. As for me, I 
positively refused. And thus ended my connexion with the original 
Westminster. The last article which I wrote in it had cost me more 
labour than any previous; but it was a labour of love, being a defence 
of the early French Revolutionists against the Tory misrepresenta- 
tions of Sir Walter Scott, in the introduction to his Life of Napoleon. 
The number of books which I read for this purpose, making notes 
and extracts even the number I had to buy (for in those days there 
was no public or subscription library from which books of reference 
could be taken home), far exceeded the worth of the immediate 
object; but I had at that time a half-formed intention of writing a 
History of the French Revolution; and though I never executed it, 
my collections afterwards were very useful to Carlyle for a similar 
purpose. 



CHAPTER V 
A CRISIS IN MY MENTAL HISTORY. ONE STAGE ONWARD 

FOR some years after this time I wrote very little, and nothing 
regularly, for publication: and great were the advantages 
which I derived from the intermission. It was of no common 
importance to me, at this period, to be able to digest and mature my 
thoughts for my own. mind only, without any immediate call for 
giving them out in print. Had I gone on writing, it would have 
much disturbed the important transformation in my opinions and 
character, which took place during those years. The origin of this 
transformation, or at least the process by which I was prepared for 
it, can only be explained by turning some distance back. 

From the winter of 1821, when I first read Bentham, and espe- 
cially from the commencement of the Westminster Review, I had 
what might truly be called an object in life: to be a reformer of the 
world. My conception of my own happiness was entirely identified 
with this object. The personal sympathies I wished for were those 
of fellow labourers in this enterprise. I endeavoured to pick up as 
many flowers as I could by the way; but as a serious and permanent 
personal satisfaction to rest upon, my whole reliance was placed on 
this; and I was accustomed to felicitate myself on the certainty of a 
happy life which I enjoyed, through placing my happiness in some- 
thing durable and distant, in which some progress might be always 
making, while it could never be exhausted by complete attainment. 
This did very well for several years, during which the general im- 
provement going on in the world and the idea of myself as engaged 
with others in struggling to promote it, seemed enough to fill up an 
interesting and animated existence. But the time came when I 
awakened from this as from a dream. It was in the autumn of 1826. 
I was in a dull state of nerves, such as everybody is occasionally liable 
to; unsusceptible to enjoyment or pleasureable excitement; one of 
those moods when what is pleasure at other times, becomes insipid 

85 



86 JOHN STUART MILL 

or indifferent; the state, I should think, in which converts to Meth- 
odism usually are, when smitten by their first "conviction of sin." 
In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the question directly 
to myself: "Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that 
all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking 
forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would 
this be a great joy and happiness to you?" And an irrepressible self- 
consciousness distinctly answered, "No!" At this my heart sank 
within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed 
fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual 
pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could 
there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have 
nothing left to live for. 

At first I hoped that the cloud would pass away of itself; but it did 
not. A night's sleep, the sovereign remedy for the smaller vexations 
of life, had no effect on it. I awoke to a renewed consciousness of the 
woful fact. I carried it with me into all companies, into all occu- 
pations. Hardly anything had power to cause me even a few min- 
utes' oblivion of it. For some months the cloud seemed to grow 
thicker and thicker. The lines in Coleridge's "Dejection" I was 
not then acquainted with them exactly describe my case: 

"A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, 
A drowsy, stifled, unimpassioned grief, 
Which finds no natural outlet or relief 
In word, or sigh, or tear." 

In vain I sought relief from my favourite books; those memorials 
of past nobleness and greatness from which I had always hitherto 
drawn strength and animation. I read them now without feeling, 
or with the accustomed feeling minus all its charm; and I became 
persuaded, that my love of mankind, and of excellence for its own 
sake, had worn itself out. I sought no comfort by speaking to others 
of what I felt. If I had loved any one sufficiently to make confiding 
my griefs a necessity, I should not have been in the condition I was. 
I felt, too, that mine was not an interesting, or in any way respectable 
distress. There was nothing in it to attract sympathy. Advice, if I had 
known where to seek it, would have been most precious. The words 






AUTOBIOGRAPHY 87 

of Macbeth to the physician often occurred to my thoughts. But 
there was no one on whom I could build the faintest hope of such 
assistance. My father, to whom it would have been natural to me 
to have recourse in any practical difficulties, was the last person to 
whom, in such a case as this, I looked for help. Everything con- 
vinced me that he had no knowledge of any such mental state as I 
was suffering from, and that even if he could be made to under- 
stand it, he was not the physician who could heal it. My education, 
which was wholly his work, had been conducted without any regard 
to the possibility of its ending in this result; and I saw no use in 
giving him the pain of thinking that his plans had failed, when the 
failure was probably irremediable, and, at all events, beyond the 
power of his remedies. Of other friends, I had at that time none to 
whom I had any hope of making my condition intelligible. It was 
however abundantly intelligible to myself; and the more I dwelt 
upon it, the more hopeless it appeared. 

My course of study had led me to believe, that all mental and 
moral feelings and qualities, whether of a good or of a bad kind, 
were the results of association; that we love one thing, and hate 
another, take pleasure in one sort of action or contemplation, and 
pain in another sort, through the clinging of pleasurable or painful 
ideas to those things, from the effect of education or of experience. 
As a corollary from this, I had always heard it maintained by my 
father, and was myself convinced, that the object of education should 
be to form the strongest possible associations of the salutary class; 
associations of pleasure with all things beneficial to the great whole, 
and of pain with all things hurtful to it. This doctrine appeared 
inexpugnable; but it now seemed to me, on retrospect, that my 
teachers had occupied themselves but superficially with the means 
of forming and keeping up these salutary associations. They seemed 
to have trusted altogether to the old familiar instruments, praise 
and blame, reward and punishment. Now, I did not doubt that 
by these means, begun early, and applied unremittingly, intense 
associations of pain and pleasure, especially of pain, might be cre- 
ated, and might produce desires and aversions capable of lasting 
undiminished to the end of life. But there must always be some- 
thing artificial and casual in associations thus produced. The pains 



88 JOHN STUART MILL 

and pleasures thus forcibly associated with things, are not connected 
with them by any natural tie; and it is therefore, I thought, essential 
to the durability of these associations, that they should have become 
so intense and inveterate as to be practically indissoluble, before the 
habitual exercise of the power of analysis had commenced. For 
I now saw, or thought I saw, what I had always before received 
with incredulity that the habit of analysis has a tendency to wear 
away the feelings: as indeed it has, when no other mental habit is 
cultivated, and the analysing spirit remains without its natural com- 
plements and correctives. The very excellence of analysis (I argued) 
is that it tends to weaken and undermine whatever is the result of 
prejudice; that it enables us mentally to separate ideas which have 
only casually clung together: and no associations whatever could 
ultimately resist this dissolving force, were it not that we owe to 
analysis our clearest knowledge of the permanent sequences in 
nature; the real connexions between Things, not dependent on our 
will and feelings; natural laws, by virtue of which, in many cases, 
one thing is inseparable from another in fact; which laws, in pro- 
portion as they are clearly perceived and imaginatively realized, 
cause our ideas of things which are always joined together in Na- 
ture, to cohere more and more closely in our thoughts. Analytic 
habits may thus even strengthen the associations between causes 
and effects, means and ends, but tend altogether to weaken those 
which are, to speak familiarly, a mere matter of feeling. They are 
therefore (I thought) favourable to prudence and clear-sightedness, 
but a perpetual worm at the root both of the passions and of the 
virtues; and, above all, fearfully undermine all desires, and all pleas- 
ures, which are the effects of association, that is, according to the 
theory I held, all except the purely physical and organic; of the 
entire insufficiency of which to make life desirable, no one had a 
stronger conviction than I had. These were the laws of human 
nature, by which, as it seemed to me, I had been brought to my 
present state. All those to whom I looked up were of opinion that 
the pleasure of sympathy with human beings, and the feelings which 
made the good of others, and especially of mankind on a large scale, 
the object of existence, were the greatest and surest sources of happi- 
ness. Of the truth of this I was convinced, but to know that a feeling 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 9 

would make me happy if I had it, did not give me the feeling. My 
education, I thought, had failed to create these feelings in sufficient 
strength to resist the dissolving influence of analysis, while the whole 
course of my intellectual cultivation had made precocious and pre- 
mature analysis the inveterate habit of my mind. I was thus, as I 
said to myself, left stranded at the commencement of my voyage, 
with a well-equipped ship and a rudder, but no sail; without any 
real desire for the ends which I had been so carefully fitted out to 
work for: no delight in virtue, or the general good, but also just as 
little in anything else. The fountains of vanity and ambition seemed 
to have dried up within me, as completely as those of benevolence. 
I had had (as I reflected) some gratification of vanity at too early 
an age: I had obtained some distinction, and felt myself of some 
importance, before the desire of distinction and of importance had 
grown into a passion: and little as it was which I had attained, yet 
having been attained too early, like all pleasures enjoyed too soon, 
it had made me blase and indifferent to the pursuit. Thus neither 
selfish nor unselfish pleasures were pleasures to me. And there 
seemed no power in nature sufficient to begin the formation of my 
character anew, and create in a mind now irretrievably analytic, 
fresh associations of pleasure with any of the objects of human desire. 
These were the thoughts which mingled with the dry heavy 
dejection of the melancholy winter of 1826-7. During this time I 
was not incapable of my usual occupations. I went on with them 
mechanically, by the mere force of habit. I had been so drilled in a 
certain sort of mental exercise, that I could still carry it on when all 
the spirit had gone out of it. I even composed and spoke several 
speeches at the debating society, how, or with what degree of success, 
I know not. Of four years continual speaking at that society, this 
is the only year of which I remember next to nothing. Two lines 
of Coleridge, in whom alone of all writers I have found a true de- 
scription of what I felt, were often in my thoughts, not at this time 
(for I had never read them), but in a later period of the same mental 
malady : 

"Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, 
And hope without an object cannot live." 

In all probability my case was by no means so peculiar as I fancied 



go JOHN STUART MILL 

it, and I doubt not that many others have passed through a similar 
state; but the idiosyncrasies of my education had given to the general 
phenomenon a special character, which made it seem the natural 
effect of causes that it was hardly possible for time to remove. I 
frequently asked myself, if I could, or if I was bound to go on living, 
when life must be passed in this manner. I generally answered to 
myself, that I did not think I could possibly bear it beyond a year. 
When, however, not more than half that duration of time had 
elapsed, a small ray of light broke in upon my gloom. I was reading, 
accidentally, Marmontel's "Memoires," and came to the passage 
which relates his father's death, the distressed position of the family, 
and the sudden inspiration by which he, then a mere boy, felt and 
made them feel that he would be everything to them would supply 
the place of all that they had lost. A vivid conception of the scene 
and its feelings came over me, and I was moved to tears. From this 
moment my burden grew lighter. The oppression of the thought 
that all feeling was dead within me, was gone. I was no longer hope- 
less: I was not a stock or a stone. I had still, it seemed, some of the 
material out of which all worth of character, and all capacity for 
happiness, are made. Relieved from my ever present sense of irre- 
mediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary inci- 
dents of life could again give me some pleasure; that I could again 
find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in sun- 
shine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs; and that 
there was, once more, excitement, though of a moderate kind, in 
exerting myself for my opinions, and for the public good. Thus the 
cloud gradually drew off, and I again enjoyed life: and though I 
had several relapses, some of which lasted many months, I never 
again was as miserable as I had been. 

The experiences of this period had two very marked effects on 
my opinions and character. In the first place, they led me to adopt 
a theory of life, very unlike that on which I had before acted, and 
having much in common with what at that time I certainly had 
never heard of, the anti-self-consciousness theory of Carlyle. I never, 
indeed, wavered in the conviction that happiness is the test of all 
rules of conduct, and the end of life. But I now thought that this 
end was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY $1 

only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some 
object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, 
on the improvement o mankind, even on some art or pursuit, 
followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at 
something else, they find happiness by the way. The enjoyments of 
life (such was now my theory) are sufficient to make it a pleasant 
thing, when they are taken en passant, without being made a princi- 
pal object. Once make them so, and they are immediately felt to be 
insufficient. They will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask 
yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only 
chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the 
purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self- 
interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortu- 
nately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you 
breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either 
forestalling it in imagination, or putting it to flight by fatal question- 
ing. This theory now became the basis of my philosophy of life. 
And I still hold to it as the best theory for all those who have but 
a moderate degree of sensibility and of capacity for enjoyment, that 
is, for the great majority of mankind. 

The other important change which my opinions at this time 
underwent, was that I, for the first time, gave its proper place, 
among the prime necessities of human well-being, to the internal 
culture of the individual. I ceased to attach almost exclusive im- 
portance to the ordering of outward circumstances, and the training 
of the human being for speculation and for action. 

I had now learnt by experience that the passive susceptibilities 
needed to be cultivated as well as the active capacities, and required 
to be nourished and enriched as well as guided. I did not, for an 
instant, lose sight of, or under-value, that part of the truth which I 
had seen before; I never turned recreant to intellectual culture, or 
ceased to consider the power and practice of analysis as an essential 
condition both of individual and of social improvement. But I 
thought that it had consequences which required to be corrected, by 
joining other kinds of cultivation with it. The maintenance of a 
due balance among the faculties, now seemed to me of primary 
importance. The cultivation of the feelings became one of the 



92 JOHN STUART MILL 

cardinal points in my ethical and philosophical creed. And my 
thoughts and inclinations turned in an increasing degree towards 
whatever seemed capable of being instrumental to that object. 

I now began to find meaning in the things which I had read or 
heard about the importance of poetry and art as instruments of 
human culture. But it was some time longer before I began to know 
this by personal experience. The only one of the imaginative arts in 
which I had from childhood taken great pleasure, was music; the 
best effect of which (and in this it surpasses perhaps every other 
art) consists in exciting enthusiasm; in winding up to a high pitch 
those feelings of an elevated kind which are already in the character, 
but to which this excitement gives a glow and a fervor, which, 
though transitory at its utmost height, is precious for sustaining 
them at other times. This effect of music I had often experienced; 
but like all my pleasurable susceptibilities it was suspended during 
the gloomy period. I had sought relief again and again from this 
quarter, but found none. After the tide had turned, and I was in 
process of recovery, I had been helped forward by music, but in a 
much less elevated manner. I at this time first became acquainted 
with Weber's Oberon, and the extreme pleasure which I drew from 
its delicious melodies did me good, by showing me a source of 
pleasure to which I was as susceptible as ever. The good, however, 
was much impaired by the thought, that the pleasure of music (as 
is quite true of such pleasure as this was, that of mere tune) fades 
with familiarity, and requires either to be revived by intermittence, 
or fed by continual novelty. And it is very characteristic both of 
my then state, and of the general tone of my mind at this period of 
my life, that I was seriously tormented by the thought of the ex- 
haustibility of musical combinations. The octave consists only of five 
tones and two semitones, which can be put together in only a 
limited number of ways, of which but a small proportion are beauti- 
ful: most of these, it seemed to me, must have been already dis- 
covered, and there could not be room for a long succession of 
Mozarts and Webers, to strike out, as these had done, entirely new 
and surpassingly rich veins of musical beauty. This source of 
anxiety may, perhaps, be thought to resemble that of the philoso- 
phers of Laputa, who feared lest the sun should be burnt out. It was, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 93 

however, connected with the best feature in my character, and the 
only good point to be found in my very unromantic and in no 
way honourable distress. For though my dejection, honestly looked 
at, could not be called other than egotistical, produced by the ruin, 
as I thought, of my fabric of happiness, yet the destiny of mankind 
in general was ever in my thoughts, and could not be separated 
from my own. I felt that the flaw in my life, must be a flaw in life 
itself; that the question was, whether, if the reformers of society 
and government could succeed in their objects, and every person in 
the community were free and in a state of physical comfort, the 
pleasures of life, being no longer kept up by struggle and privation, 
would cease to be pleasures. And I felt that unless I could see my 
way to some better hope than this for human happiness in general, 
my dejection must continue; but that if I could see such an outlet, 
I should then look on the world with pleasure; content as far as I 
was myself concerned, with any fair share of the general lot. 

This state of my thoughts and feelings made the fact of my 
reading Wordsworth for the first time (in the autumn of 1828), an 
important event in my life. I took up the collection of his poems 
from curiosity, with no expectation of mental relief from it, though 
I had before resorted to poetry with that hope. In the worst period 
of my depression, I had read through the whole of Byron (then new 
to me), to try whether a poet, whose peculiar department was sup- 
posed to be that of the intenser feelings, could rouse any feeling in 
me. As might be expected, I got no good from this reading, but the 
reverse. The poet's state of mind was too like my own. His was the 
lament of a man who had worn out all pleasures, and who seemed 
to think that life, to all who possess the good things of it, must 
necessarily be the vapid, uninteresting thing which I found it. His 
Harold and Manfred had the same burden on them which I had; 
and I was not in a frame of mind to desire any comfort from the 
vehement sensual passion of his Giaours, or the sullenness of his 
Laras. But while Byron was exactly what did not suit my condition, 
Wordsworth was exactly what did. I had looked into the Excursion 
two or three years before, and found little in it; and I should prob- 
ably have found as little, had I read it at this time. But the miscel- 
laneous poems, in the two-volume edition of 1815 (to which little of 



94 JOHN STUART MILL 

value was added in the latter part of the author's life) proved to 
be the precise thing for my mental wants at that particular junc- 
ture. 

In the first place, these poems addressed themselves powerfully 
to one of the strongest of my pleasurable susceptibilities, the love 
for rural objects and natural scenery; to which I had been indebted 
not only for much of the pleasure of my life, but quite recently for 
relief from one of my longest relapses into depression. In this power 
of rural beauty over me, there was a foundation laid for taking 
pleasure in Wordsworth's poetry; the more so, as his scenery lies 
mostly among mountains, which, owing to my early Pyrenean ex- 
cursion, were my ideal of natural beauty. But Wordsworth would 
never have had any great effect on me, if he had merely placed be- 
fore me beautiful pictures of natural scenery. Scott does this still 
better than Wordsworth, and a very second-rate landscape does it 
more effectually than any poet. What made Wordsworth's poems 
a medicine for my state of mind, was that they expressed, not mere 
outward beauty, but states of feeling, and of thought coloured by 
feeling, under the excitement of beauty. They seemed to be the very 
culture of the feelings, which I was in quest of. In them I seemed to 
draw from a source of inward joy, of sympathetic and imaginative 
pleasure, which could be shared in by all human beings; which had 
no connexion with struggle or imperfection, but would be made 
richer by every improvement in the physical or social condition of 
mankind. From them I seemed to learn what would be the peren- 
nial sources of happiness, when all the greater evils of life shall have 
been removed. And I felt myself at once better and happier as I 
came under their influence. There have certainly been, even in our 
own age, greater poets than Wordsworth; but poetry of deeper and 
loftier feeling could not have done for me at that time what his 
did. I needed to be made to feel that there was real, permanent 
happiness in tranquil contemplation. Wordsworth taught me this, 
not only without turning away from, but with a greatly increased 
interest in the common feelings and common destiny of human 
beings. And the delight which these poems gave me, proved that 
with culture of this sort, there was nothing to dread from the most 
confirmed habit of analysis. At the conclusion of the Poems came 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 95 

the famous Ode, falsely called Platonic, "Intimations of Immor- 
tality:" in which, along with more than his usual sweetness of 
melody and rhythm, and along with the two passages of grand 
imagery but bad philosophy so often quoted, I found that he too 
had had similar experience to mine; that he also had felt that the 
first freshness of youthful enjoyment of life was not lasting; but 
that he had sought for compensation, and found it, in the way in 
which he was now teaching me to find it. The result was that I 
gradually, but completely, emerged from my habitual depression, 
and was never again subject to it. I long continued to value Words- 
worth less according to his intrinsic merits, than by the measure of 
what he had done for me. Compared with the greatest poets, he 
may be said to be the poet of unpoetical natures, possessed of quiet 
and contemplative tastes. But unpoetical natures are precisely those 
which require poetic cultivation. This cultivation Wordsworth is 
much more fitted to give, than poets who are intrinsically far more 
poets than he. 

It so fell out that the merits of Wordsworth were the occasion of 
my first public declaration of my new way of thinking, and separa- 
tion from those of my habitual companions who had not undergone 
a similar change. The person with whom at that time I was most 
in the habit of comparing notes on such subjects was Roebuck, and 
I induced him to read Wordsworth, in whom he also at first seemed 
to find much to admire: but I, like most Wordsworthians, threw 
myself into strong antagonism to Byron, both as a poet and as to 
his influence on the character. Roebuck, all whose instincts were 
those of action and struggle, had, on the contrary, a strong relish 
and great admiration of Byron, whose writings he regarded as the 
poetry of human life, while Wordsworth's, according to him, was 
that of flowers and butterflies. We agreed to have the fight out at 
our Debating Society, where we accordingly discussed for two 
evenings the comparative merits of Byron and Wordsworth, pro- 
pounding and illustrating by long recitations our respective theories 
of poetry: Sterling also, in a brilliant speech, putting forward his 
particular theory. This was the first debate on any weighty subject 
in which Roebuck and I had been on opposite sides. The schism 
between us widened from this time more and more, though we 



96 JOHN STUART MILL 

continued for some years longer to be companions. In the beginning, 
our chief divergence related to the cultivation of the feelings. Roe- 
buck was in many respects very different from the vulgar notion 
of a Benthamite or Utilitarian. He was a lover of poetry and of 
most of the fine arts. He took great pleasure in music, in dramatic 
performances, especially in painting, and himself drew and designed 
landscapes with great facility and beauty. But he never could be 
made to see that these things have any value as aids in the formation 
of character. Personally, instead of being, as Benthamites are sup- 
posed to be, void of feeling, he had very quick and strong sensi- 
bilities. But, like most Englishmen who have feelings, he found 
his feelings stand very much in his way. He was much more sus- 
ceptible to the painful sympathies than to the pleasurable, and look- 
ing for his happiness elsewhere, he wished that his feelings should 
be deadened rather than quickened. And, in truth, the English 
character, and English social circumstances, make it so seldom 
possible to derive happiness from the exercise of the sympathies, 
that it is not wonderful if they count for little in an Englishman's 
scheme of life. In most other countries the paramount importance 
of the sympathies as a constituent of individual happiness is an 
axiom, taken for granted rather than needing any formal statement; 
but most English thinkers almost seem to regard them as necessary 
evils, required for keeping men's actions benevolent and compas- 
sionate. Roebuck was, or appeared to be, this kind of Englishman. 
He saw little good in any cultivation of the feelings, and none at all 
in cultivating them through the imagination, which he thought was 
only cultivating illusions. It was in vain I urged on him that the 
imaginative emotion which an idea, when vividly conceived, excites 
in us, is not an illusion but a fact, as real as any of the other qualities 
of objects; and far from implying anything erroneous and delusive 
in our mental apprehension of the object, is quite consistent with 
the most accurate knowledge and most perfect practical recognition 
of all its physical and intellectual laws and relations. The intense 
feeling of the beauty of a cloud lighted by the setting sun, is no 
hindrance to my knowing that the cloud is vapour of water, subject 
to all the laws of vapours in a state of suspension; and I am just as 
likely to allow for, and act on, these physical laws whenever there is 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 97 

occasion to do so, as if I had been incapable of perceiving any distinc- 
tion between beauty and ugliness. 

While my intimacy with Roebuck diminished, I fell more and 
more into friendly intercourse with our Coleridgian adversaries in 
the Society, Frederick Maurice and John Sterling, both subsequently 
so well known, the former by his writings, the latter through the 
biographies by Hare and Carlyle. Of these two friends, Maurice 
was the thinker, Sterling the orator, and impassioned expositor of 
thoughts which, at this period, were almost entirely formed for him 
by Maurice. 

With Maurice I had for some time been acquainted through 
Eyton Tooke, who had known him at Cambridge, and although my 
discussions with him were almost always disputes, I had carried 
away from them much that helped to build up my new fabric of 
thought, in the same way as I was deriving much from Coleridge, 
and from the writings of Goethe and other German authors which 
I read during these years. I have so deep a respect for Maurice's 
character and purposes, as well as for his great mental gifts, that 
it is with some unwillingness I say anything which may seem to 
place him on a less high eminence than I would gladly be able to 
accord to him. But I have always thought that there was more 
intellectual power wasted in Maurice than in any other of my 
contemporaries. Few of them certainly have had so much waste. 
Great powers of generalization, rare ingenuity and subtlety, and a 
wide perception of important and unobvious truths, served him 
not for putting something better into the place of the worthless heap 
of received opinions on the great subjects of thought, but for prov- 
ing to his own mind that the Church of England had known every- 
thing from the first, and that all the truths on the ground of which 
the Church and orthodoxy have been attacked (many of which he 
saw as clearly as any one) are not only consistent with the Thirty- 
nine Articles, but are better understood and expressed in those 
Articles than by any one who rejects them. I have never been able 
to find any other explanation of this, than by attributing it to that 
timidity of conscience, combined with original sensitiveness of 
temperament, which has so often driven highly gifted men into 
Romanism from the need of a firmer support than they can find 



98 JOHN STUART MILL 

in the independent conclusions of their own judgment. Any more 
vulgar kind of timidity no one who knew Maurice would ever 
think of imputing to him, even if he had not given public proof 
of his freedom from it, by his ultimate collision with some of the 
opinions commonly regarded as orthodox, and by his noble origina- 
tion of the Christian Socialist movement. The nearest parallel to 
him, in a moral point of view, is Coleridge, to whom, in merely 
intellectual power, apart from poetical genius, I think him decidedly 
superior. At this time, however, he might be described as a disciple 
of Coleridge, and Sterling as a disciple of Coleridge and of him. The 
modifications which were taking place in my old opinions gave me 
some points of contact with them; and both Maurice and Sterling 
were of considerable use to my development. With Sterling I soon 
became very intimate, and was more attached to him than I have 
ever been to any other man. He was indeed one of the most love- 
able of men. His frank, cordial, affectionate, and expansive char- 
acter; a love of truth alike conspicuous in the highest things and 
the humblest; a generous and ardent nature which threw itself 
with impetuosity into the opinions it adopted, but was as eager to 
do justice to the doctrines and the men it was opposed to, as to 
make war on what it thought their errors; and an equal devotion 
to the two cardinal points of Liberty and Duty, formed a combina- 
tion of qualities as attractive to me, as to all others who knew him 
as well as I did. With his open mind and heart, he found no 
difficulty in joining hands with me across the gulf which as yet 
divided our opinions. He told me how he and others had looked 
upon me (from hearsay information), as a "made" or manufactured 
man, having had a certain impress of opinion stamped on me which 
I could only reproduce; and what a change took place in his feelings 
when he found, in the discussion on Wordsworth and Byron, that 
Wordsworth, and all which that name implies, "belonged" to me 
as much as to him and his friends. The failure of his health soon 
scattered all his plans of life, and compelled him to live at a distance 
from London, so that after the first year or two of our acquaintance, 
we only saw each other at distant intervals. But (as he said himself 
in one of his letters to Carlyle) when we did meet it was like 
brothers. Though he was never, in the full sense of the word, a 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 99 

profound thinker, his openness of mind, and the moral courage in 
which he greatly surpassed Maurice, made him outgrow the do- 
minion which Maurice and Coleridge had once exercised over his 
intellect; though he retained to the last a great but discriminating 
admiration of both, and towards Maurice a warm affection. Except 
in that short and transitory phasis of his life, during which he made 
the mistake of becoming a clergyman, his mind was ever progres- 
sive: and the advance he always seemed to have made when I saw 
him after an interval, made me apply to him what Goethe said of 
Schiller, "er hatte eine furchtliche Fortschreitung." He and I started 
from intellectual points almost as wide apart as the poles, but the 
distance between us was always diminishing: if I made steps towards 
some of his opinions, he, during his short life, was constantly ap- 
proximating more and more to several of mine: and if he had 
lived, and had health and vigour to prosecute his ever assiduous 
self -culture, there is no knowing how much further this spontaneous 
assimilation might have proceeded. 

After 1829 I withdrew from attendance on the Debating Society. 
I had had enough of speechmaking, and was glad to carry on my 
private studies and meditations without any immediate call for 
outward assertion of their results. I found the fabric of my old and 
taught opinions giving way in many fresh places, and I never 
allowed it to fall to pieces, but was incessantly occupied in weaving 
it anew. I never, in the course of my transition, was content to 
remain, for ever so short a time, confused and unsettled. When I 
had taken in any new idea, I could not rest till I had adjusted its 
relation to my old opinions, and ascertained exactly how far its 
effect ought to extend in modifying or superseding them. 

The conflicts which I had so often had to sustain in defending the 
theory of government laid down in Bentham's and my father's 
writings, and the acquaintance I had obtained with other schools of 
political thinking, made me aware of many things which that 
doctrine, professing to be a theory of government in general, ought 
to have made room for, and did not. But these things, as yet, re- 
mained with me rather as corrections to be made in applying the 
theory to practice, than as defects in the theory. I felt that politics 
could not be a science of specific experience; and that the accusations 



100 JOHN STUART MILL 

against the Benthamic theory of being a theory, of proceeding 
d priori by way of general reasoning, instead of Baconian experiment, 
showed complete ignorance of Bacon's principles, and of the neces- 
sary conditions of experimental investigation. At this juncture 
appeared in the Edinburgh Review, Macaulay's famous attack on 
my father's Essay on Government. This gave me much to think 
about. I saw that Macaulay's conception of the logic of politics was 
erroneous; that he stood up for the empirical mode of treating 
political phenomena, against the philosophical; that even in physical 
science his notions of philosophizing might have recognized Kepler, 
but would have excluded Newton and Laplace. But I could not 
help feeling, that though the tone was unbecoming (an error for 
which the writer, at a later period, made the most ample and 
honourable amends), there was truth in several of his strictures on 
my father's treatment of the subject; that my father's premises were 
really too narrow, and included but a small number of the general 
truths, on which, in politics, the important consequences depend. 
Identity of interest between the governing body and the community 
at large, is not, in any practical sense which can be attached to it, 
the only thing on which good government depends; neither can this 
identity of interest be secured by the mere conditions of election. 
I was not at all satisfied with the mode in which my father met 
the criticisms of Macaulay. He did not, as I thought he ought to 
have done, justify himself by saying, "I was not writing a scientific 
treatise on politics, I was writing an argument for parliamentary 
reform." He treated Macaulay's argument as simply irrational; an 
attack upon the reasoning faculty; an example of the saying of 
Hobbes, that when reason is against a man, a man will be against 
reason. This made me think that there was really something more 
fundamentally erroneous in my father's conception of philosophical 
method, as applicable to politics, than I had hitherto supposed there 
was. But I did not at first see clearly what the error might be. At 
last it flashed upon me all at once in the course of other studies. In 
the early part of 1830 I had begun to put on paper the ideas of Logic 
(chiefly on the distinctions among Terms, and the import of Propo- 
sitions) which had been suggested and in part worked out in the 
morning conversations already spoken of. Having secured these 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 101 

thoughts from being lost, I pushed on into the other parts of the 
subject, to try whether I could do anything further towards 
clearing up the theory of logic generally. I grappled at once with 
the problem of Induction, postponing that of Reasoning, on the 
ground that it is necessary to obtain premises before we can 
reason from them. Now, Induction is mainly a process for find- 
ing the causes of effects: and in attempting to fathom the mode of 
tracing causes and effects in physical science, I soon saw that in 
the more perfect of the sciences, we ascend, by generalization from 
particulars, to the tendencies of causes considered singly, and then 
reason downward from those separate tendencies, to the effect of the 
same causes when combined. I then asked myself, what is the 
ultimate analysis of this deductive process; the common theory of 
the syllogism evidently throwing no light upon it. My practice 
(learnt from Hobbes and my father) being to study abstract prin- 
ciples by means of the best concrete instances I could find, the 
Composition of Forces, in dynamics, occurred to me as the most 
complete example of the logical process I was investigating. On 
examining, accordingly, what the mind does when it applies the 
principle of the Composition of Forces, I found that it performs a 
simple act of addition. It adds the separate effect of the one force 
to the separate effect of the other, and puts down the sum of these 
separate effects as the joint effect. But is this a legitimate process? 
In dynamics, and in all the mathematical branches of physics, it is; 
but in some other cases, as in chemistry, it is not; and I then recol- 
lected that something not unlike this was pointed out as one of the 
distinctions between chemical and mechanical phenomena, in the 
introduction to that favourite of my boyhood, Thompson's System 
of Chemistry. This distinction at once made my mind clear as to 
what was perplexing me in respect to the philosophy of politics. I 
now saw, that a science is either deductive or experimental, accord- 
ing as, in the province it deals with, the effects of causes when con- 
joined, are or are not the sums of the effects which the same causes 
produce when separate. It followed that politics must be a deductive 
science. It thus appeared, that both Macaulay and my father were 
wrong; the one in assimilating the method of philosophizing in 
politics to the purely experimental method of chemistry; while the 



102 JOHN STUART MILL 

other, though right in adopting a deductive method, had made a 
wrong selection of one, having taken as the type of deduction, not 
the appropriate process, that of the deductive branches of natural 
philosophy, but the inappropriate one of pure geometry, which, not 
being a science of causation at all, does not require or admit of any 
summing-up of effects. A foundation was thus laid in my thoughts 
for the principal chapters of what I afterwards published on the 
Logic of the Moral Sciences; and my new position in respect to my 
old political creed, now became perfectly definite. 

If I am asked, what system of political philosophy I substituted for 
that which, as a philosophy, I had abandoned, I answer, No system : 
only a conviction that the true system was something much more 
complex and many-sided than I had previously had any idea of, and 
that its office was to supply, not a set of model institutions, but 
principles from which the institutions suitable to any given circum- 
stances might be deduced. The influences of European, that is to 
say, Continental, thought, and especially those of the reaction of 
the nineteenth century against the eighteenth, were now streaming 
in upon me. They came from various quarters; from the writings 
of Coleridge, which I had begun to read with interest even before 
the change in my opinions; from the Coleridgians with whom I 
was in personal intercourse; from what I had read of Goethe; from 
Carlyle's early articles in the Edinburgh and Foreign Reviews, 
though for a long time I saw nothing in these (as my father saw 
nothing in them to the last) but insane rhapsody. From these 
sources, and from the acquaintance I kept up with the French litera- 
ture of the time, I derived, among other ideas which the general 
turning upside down of the opinions of European thinkers had 
brought uppermost, these in particular: That the human mind has 
a certain order of possible progress, in which some things must 
precede others, an order which governments and public instructors 
can modify to some, but not to an unlimited extent: that all ques- 
tions of political institutions are relative, not absolute, and that 
different stages of human progress not only will have, but ought to 
have, different institutions: that government is always either in the 
hands, or passing into the hands, of whatever is the strongest power 
in society, and that what this power is, does not depend on institu- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 103 

tions, but institutions on it: that any general theory of philosophy 
of politics supposes a previous theory of human progress, and 
that this is the same thing with a philosophy of history. These 
opinions, true in the main, were held in an exaggerated and violent 
manner by the thinker with whom I was now most accustomed to 
compare notes, and who, as usual with a reaction, ignored that 
half of the truth which the thinkers of the eighteenth century saw. 
But though, at one period of my progress, I for some time under- 
valued that great century, I never joined in the reaction against it 
but kept as firm hold of one side of the truth as I took of the other. 
The fight between the nineteenth century and the eighteenth always 
reminded me of the battle about the shield, one side of which was 
white and the other black. I marvelled at the blind rage with which 
the combatants rushed against one another. I applied to them, and 
to Coleridge himself, many of Coleridge's sayings about half truths; 
and Goethe's device, "many-sidedness," was one which I would most 
willingly, at this period, have taken for mine. 

The writers by whom, more than by any others, a new mode of 
political thinking was brought home to me, were those of the St. 
Simonian school in France. In 1829 and 1830 I became acquainted 
with some of their writings. They were then only in the earlier 
stages of their speculations. They had not yet dressed out their 
philosophy as a religion, nor had they organized their scheme of 
Socialism. They were just beginning to question the principle of 
hereditary property. I was by no means prepared to go with them 
even this length; but I was greatly struck with the connected view 
which they for the first time presented to me, of the natural order 
of human progress; and especially with their division of all history 
into organic periods and critical periods. During the organic periods 
(they said) mankind accept with firm conviction some positive 
creed, claiming jurisdiction over all their actions, and containing 
more or less of truth and adaptation to the needs of humanity. 
Under its influence they make all the progress compatible with the 
creed, and finally outgrow it; when a period follows of criticism 
and negation, in which mankind lose their old convictions without 
acquiring any new ones, of a general or authoritative character, 
except the conviction that the old are false. The period of Greek 



IO4 JOHN STUART MILL 

and Roman polytheism, so long as really believed in by instructed 
Greeks and Romans, was an organic period, succeeded by the critical 
or sceptical period of the Greek philosophers. Another organic 
period came in with Christianity. The corresponding critical period 
began with the Reformation, has lasted ever since, still lasts, and 
cannot altogether cease until a new organic period has been in- 
augurated by the triumph of a yet more advanced creed. These 
ideas, I knew, were not peculiar to the St. Simonians; on the con- 
trary, they were the general property of Europe, or at least of 
Germany and France, but they had never, to my knowledge, been 
so completely systematized as by these writers, nor the distinguish- 
ing characteristics of a critical period so powerfully set forth; for I 
was not then acquainted with Fichte's Lectures on "The Character- 
istics of the Present Age." In Carlyle, indeed, I found bitter de- 
nunciations of an "age of unbelief," and of the present age as such, 
which I, like most people at that time, supposed to be passionate 
protests in favour of the old modes of belief. But all that was true 
in these denunciations, I thought that I found more calmly and 
philosophically stated by the St. Simonians. Among their publica- 
tions, too, there was one which seemed to me far superior to the 
rest; in which the general idea was matured into something much 
more definite and instructive. This was an early work of Auguste 
Comte, who then called himself, and even announced himself in 
the title-page, as a pupil of Saint Simon. In this tract M. Comte 
first put forth the doctrine, which he afterwards so copiously illus- 
trated, of the natural succession of three stages in every department 
of human knowledge: first, the theological, next the metaphysical, 
and lastly, the positive stage; and contended, that social science must 
be subject to the same law; that the feudal and Catholic system 
was the concluding phasis of the theological state of the social 
science, Protestantism the commencement, and the doctrines of 
the French Revolution the consummation, of the metaphysical; and 
that its positive state was yet to come. This doctrine harmonized 
well with my existing notions, to which it seemed to give a scientific 
shape. I already regarded the methods of physical science as the 
proper models for political. But the chief benefit which I derived 
at this time from the trains of thought suggested by the St. Simon- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 105 

ians and by Comte, was, that I obtained a clearer conception than 
ever before of the peculiarities of an era of transition in opinion, 
and ceased to mistake the moral and intellectual characteristics of 
such an era, for the normal attributes of humanity. I looked for- 
ward, through the present age of loud disputes but generally weak 
convictions, to a future which shall unite the best qualities of the 
critical with the best qualities of the organic periods; unchecked 
liberty of thought, unbounded freedom of individual action in all 
modes not hurtful to others; but also, convictions as to what is right 
and wrong, useful and pernicious, deeply engraven on the feelings 
by early education and general unanimity of sentiment, and so firmly 
grounded in reason and in the true exigencies of life, that they shall 
not, like all former and present creeds, religious, ethical, and political, 
require to be periodically thrown off and replaced by others. 

M. Comte soon left the St. Simonians, and I lost sight of him and 
his writings for a number of years. But the St. Simonians I con- 
tinued to cultivate. I was kept au courant of their progress by one 
of their most enthusiastic disciples, M. Gustave d'Eichthal, who about 
that time passed a considerable interval in England. I was intro- 
duced to their chiefs, Bazard and Enfantin, in 1830; and as long as 
their public teachings and proselytism continued, I read nearly every 
thing they wrote. Their criticisms on the common doctrines of 
Liberalism seemed to me full of important truth; and it was partly 
by their writings that my eyes were opened to the very limited 
and temporary value of the old political economy, which assumes 
private property and inheritance as indefeasible facts, and freedom 
of production and exchange as the dernier mot of social improve- 
ment. The scheme gradually unfolded by the St. Simonians, under 
which the labour and capital of society would be managed for the 
general account of the community, every individual being required 
to take a share of labour, either as thinker, teacher, artist or producer, 
all being classed according to their capacity, and remunerated ac- 
cording to their work, appeared to me a far superior description of 
Socialism to Owen's. Their aim seemed to me desirable and rational, 
however their means might be inefficacious; and though I neither 
believed in the practicability, nor in the beneficial operation of their 
social machinery, I felt that the proclamation of such an ideal of 



106 JOHN STUART MILL 

human society could not but tend to give a beneficial direction to 
the efforts of others to bring society, as at present constituted, nearer 
to some ideal standard. I honoured them most of all for what they 
have been most cried down for the boldness and freedom from 
prejudice with which they treated the subject of family, the most 
important of any, and needing more fundamental alterations than 
remain to be made in any other great social institution, but on which 
scarcely any reformer has the courage to touch. In proclaiming the 
perfect equality of men and women, an entirely new order of things 
in regard to their relations with one another, the St. Simonians, in 
common with Owen and Fourier, have entitled themselves to the 
grateful remembrance of future generations. 

In giving an account of this period of my life, I have only specified 
such of my new impressions as appeared to me, both at the time 
and since, to be a kind of turning points, marking a definite progress 
in my mode of thought. But these few selected points give a very 
insufficient idea of the quantity of thinking which I carried on 
respecting a host of subjects during these years of transition. Much 
of this, it is true, consisted in rediscovering things known to all the 
world, which I had previously disbelieved, or disregarded. But the 
rediscovery was to me a discovery, giving me plenary possession of 
the truths, not as traditional platitudes, but fresh from their source : 
and it seldom failed to place them in some new light, by which they 
were reconciled with, and seemed to confirm while they modified 
the truths less generally known which lay in my early opinions, and 
in no essential part of which I at any time wavered. All my new 
thinking only laid the foundation of these more deeply and strongly, 
while it often removed misapprehension and confusion of ideas 
which had perverted their effect. For example, during the later 
returns of my dejection, the doctrine of what is called Philosophical 
Necessity weighed on my existence like an incubus. I felt as if I 
was scientifically proved to be the helpless slave of antecedent cir- 
cumstances: as if my character and that of all others had been 
formed for us by agencies beyond our control, and was wholly out 
of our own power. I often said to myself, what a relief it would 
be if I could disbelieve the doctrine of the formation of character 
by circumstances; and remembering the wish of Fox respecting the 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1 07 

doctrine o resistance to governments, that it might never be for- 
gotten by kings, nor remembered by subjects, I said that it would 
be a blessing if the doctrine of necessity could be believed by all 
quoad the characters of others, and disbelieved in regard to their 
own. I pondered painfully on the subject, till gradually I saw light 
through it. I perceived, that the word Necessity, as a name for the 
doctrine of Cause and Effect applied to human action, carried with 
it a misleading association; and that this association was the opera- 
tive force in the depressing and paralysing influence which I had 
experienced: I saw that though our character is formed by circum- 
stances, our own desires can do much to shape those circumstances; 
and that what is really inspiriting and ennobling in the doctrine of 
freewill, is the conviction that we have real power over the formation 
of our own character; that our will, by influencing some of our 
circumstances, can modify our future habits or capabilities of will- 
ing. All this was entirely consistent with the doctrine of circum- 
stances, or rather, was that doctrine itself, properly understood. 
From that time I drew in my own mind, a clear distinction between 
the doctrine of circumstances, and Fatalism; discarding altogether 
the misleading word Necessity. The theory, which I now for the 
first time rightly apprehended, ceased altogether to be discouraging, 
and besides the relief to my spirits, I no longer suffered under the 
burden, so heavy to one who aims at being a reformer in opinions, 
of thinking one doctrine true, and the contrary doctrine morally 
beneficial. The train of thought which had extricated me from this 
dilemma, seemed to me, in after years, fitted to render a similar 
service to others; and it now forms the chapter on Liberty and 
Necessity in the concluding Book of my System of Logic. 

Again in politics, though I no longer accepted the doctrine of the 
Essay on Government as a scientific theory; though I ceased to 
consider representative democracy as an absolute principle, and 
regarded it as a question of time, place, and circumstance; though 
I now looked upon the choice of political institutions as a moral 
and educational question more than one of material interests, think- 
ing that it ought to be decided mainly by the consideration, what 
great improvement in life and culture stands next in order for the 
people concerned, as the condition of their further progress, and 



IO8 JOHN STUART MILL 

what institutions are most likely to promote that; nevertheless, this 
change in the premises of my political philosophy did not alter my 
practical political creed as to the requirements of my own time and 
country. I was as much as ever a Radical and Democrat for Europe, 
and especially for England. I thought the predominance of the 
aristocratic classes, the noble and the rich, in the English constitu- 
tion, an evil worth any struggle to get rid of; not on account of taxes, 
or any such comparatively small inconvenience, but as the great 
demoralizing agency in the country. Demoralizing, first, because 
it made the conduct of the Government an example of gross public 
immorality, through the predominance of private over public in- 
terests in the State, and the abuse of the powers of legislation for 
the advantage of classes. Secondly, and in a still greater degree, 
because the respect of the multitude always attaching itself prin- 
cipally to that which, in the existing state of society, is the chief pass- 
port to power; and under English institutions, riches, hereditary or 
acquired, being the almost exclusive source of political importance; 
riches, and the signs of riches, were almost the only things really 
respected, and the life of the people was mainly devoted to the 
pursuit of them. I thought, that while the higher and richer classes 
held the power of government, the instruction and improvement 
of the mass of the people were contrary to the self-interest of 
those classes, because tending to render the people more powerful 
for throwing ofi the yoke: but if the democracy obtained a large, 
and perhaps the principal share, in the governing power, it would 
become the interest of the opulent classes to promote their education, 
in order to ward off really mischievous errors, and especially those 
which would lead to unjust violations of property. On these 
grounds I was not only as ardent as ever for democratic institutions, 
but earnestly hoped that Owenite, St. Simonian, and all other anti- 
property doctrines might spread widely among the poorer classes; 
not that I thought those doctrines true, or desired that they should 
be acted on, but in order that the higher classes might be made to 
see that they had more to fear from the poor when uneducated, 
than when educated. 

In this frame of mind the French Revolution of July found me. 
It roused my utmost enthusiasm, and gave me, as it were, a new 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1 09 

existence. I went at once to Paris, was introduced to Lafayette, and 
laid the groundwork of the intercourse I afterwards kept up with 
several of the active chiefs of the extreme popular party. After my 
return I entered warmly, as a writer, into the political discussions 
of the time; which soon became still more exciting, by the coming 
in of Lord Grey's Ministry, and the proposing of the Reform Bill. 
For the next few years I wrote copiously in newspapers. It was 
about this time that Fonblanque, who had for some time written 
the political articles in the Examiner, became the proprietor and 
editor of the paper. It is not forgotten with what verve and talent, 
as well as fine wit, he carried it on, during the whole period of 
Lord Grey's Ministry, and what importance it assumed as the 
principal representative in the newspaper press, of Radical opinions. 
The distinguishing character of the paper was given to it entirely 
by his own articles, which formed at least three-fourths of all the 
original writing contained in it: but of the remaining fourth I con- 
tributed during those years a much larger share than any one else. 
I wrote nearly all the articles on French subjects, including a weekly 
summary of French politics, often extending to considerable length; 
together with many leading articles on general politics, commercial 
and financial legislation, and any miscellaneous subjects in which 
I felt interested, and which were suitable to the paper, including 
occasional reviews of books. Mere newspaper articles on the oc- 
currences or questions of the moment, gave no opportunity for the 
development of any general mode of thought; but I attempted, in 
the beginning of 1831, to embody in a series of articles, headed 
"The Spirit of the Age," some of my new opinions, and especially 
to point out in the character of the present age, the anomalies and 
evils characteristic of the transition from a system of opinions which 
had worn out, to another only in process of being formed. These 
articles were, I fancy, lumbering in style, and not lively or striking 
enough to be, at any time, acceptable to newspaper readers; but had 
they been far more attractive, still, at that particular moment, when 
great political changes were impending, and engrossing all minds, 
these discussions were ill-timed, and missed fire altogether. The 
only effect which I know to have been produced by them, was that 
Carlyle, then living in a secluded part of Scotland, read them in 



110 JOHN STUART MILL 

his solitude, and saying to himself (as he afterwards told me) "Here 
is a new Mystic," inquired on coming to London that autumn 
respecting their authorship; an inquiry which was the immediate 
cause of our becoming personally acquainted. 

I have already mentioned Carlyle's earlier writings as one of the 
channels through which I received the influences which enlarged 
my early narrow creed; but I do not think that those writings, by 
themselves, would ever have had any effect on my opinions. What 
truths they contained, though of the very kind which I was already 
receiving from other quarters, were presented in a form and vesture 
less suited than any other to give them access to a mind trained as 
mine had been. They seemed a haze of poetry and German meta- 
physics, in which almost the only clear thing was a strong animosity 
to most of the opinions which were the basis of my mode of thought : 
religious scepticism, utilitarianism, the doctrine of circumstances, 
and the attaching any importance to democracy, logic, or political 
economy. Instead of my having been taught anything, in the first 
instance, by Carlyle, it was only in proportion as I came to see the 
same truths through media more suited to my mental constitution, 
that I recognised them in his writings. Then, indeed, the wonderful 
power with which he put them forth made a deep impression upon 
me, and I was during a long period one of his most fervent admirers; 
but the good his writings did me, was not as philosophy to instruct, 
but as poetry to animate. Even at the time when our acquaintance 
commenced, I was not sufficiently advanced in my new modes of 
thought to appreciate him fully; a proof of which is, that on his 
showing me the manuscript of Sartor Resartus, his best and greatest 
work, which he had just then finished, I made little of it; though 
when it came out about two years afterwards in Fraser's Magazine 
I read it with enthusiastic admiration and the keenest delight. I 
did not seek and cultivate Carlyle less on account of the fundamental 
differences in our philosophy. He soon found out that I was not 
"another mystic," and when for the sake of my own integrity I 
wrote to him a distinct profession of all those of my opinions which 
I knew he most disliked, he replied that the chief difference between 
us was that I "was as yet consciously nothing of a mystic." I do not 
know at what period he gave up the expectation that I was destined 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY III 

to become one; but though both his and my opinions underwent in 
subsequent years considerable changes, we never approached much 
nearer to each other's modes of thought than we were in the first 
years of our acquaintance. I did not, however, deem myself a com- 
petent judge of Carlyle. I felt that he was a poet, and that I was 
not; that he was a man of intuition, which I was not; and that as 
such, he not only saw many things long before me, which I could 
only when they were pointed out to me, hobble after and prove, 
but that it was highly probable he could see many things which were 
not visible to me even after they were pointed out. I knew that I 
could not see round him, and could never be certain that I saw 
over him; and I never presumed to judge him with any definiteness, 
until he was interpreted to me by one greatly the superior of us 
both who was more a poet than he, and more a thinker than I 
whose own mind and nature included his, and infinitely more. 

Among the persons of intellect whom I had known of old, the 
one with whom I had now most points of agreement was the elder 
Austin. I have mentioned that he always set himself in opposition 
to our early sectarianism; and latterly he had, like myself, come 
under new influences. Having been appointed Professor of Juris- 
prudence in the London University (now University College), he 
had lived for some time at Bonn to study for his Lectures; and the 
influences of German literature and of the German character and 
state of society had made a very perceptible change in his views 
of life. His personal disposition was much softened; he was less 
militant and polemic; his tastes had begun to turn themselves 
towards the poetic and contemplative. He attached much less im- 
portance than formerly to outward changes; unless accompanied by 
a better cultivation of the inward nature. He had a strong distaste 
for the general meanness of English life, the absence of enlarged 
thoughts and unselfish desires, the low objects on which the faculties 
of all classes of the English are intent. Even the kind of public 
interests which Englishmen care for, he held in very little esteem. 
He thought that there was more practical good government, and 
(which is true enough) infinitely more care for the education and 
mental improvement of all ranks of the people, under the Prussian 
monarchy, than under the English representative government: and 



112 JOHN STUART MILL 

he held, with the French Economistes , that the real security for 
good government is "un peuple eclaire," which is not always the 
fruit of popular institutions, and which if it could be had without 
them, would do their work better than they. Though he approved 
of the Reform Bill, he predicted, what in fact occurred, that it 
would not produce the great immediate improvements in govern- 
ment, which many expected from it. The men, he said, who could 
do these great things, did not exist in the country. There were many 
points of sympathy between him and me, both in the new opinions 
he had adopted and in the old ones which he retained. Like me, 
he never ceased to be an utilitarian, and with all his love of the 
Germans, and enjoyment of their literature, never became in the 
smallest degree reconciled to the innate-principle metaphysics. He 
cultivated more and more a kind of German religion, a religion of 
poetry and feeling with little, if anything, of positive dogma; while, 
in politics (and here it was that I most differed with him) he ac- 
quired an indifference, bordering on contempt, for the progress of 
popular institutions: though he rejoiced in that of Socialism, as the 
most effectual means of compelling the powerful classes to educate 
the people, and to impress on them the only real means of per- 
manently improving their material condition, a limitation of their 
numbers. Neither was he, at this time, fundamentally opposed to 
Socialism in itself as an ultimate result of improvement. He pro- 
fessed great disrespect for what he called "the universal principles 
of human nature of the political economists," and insisted on the 
evidence which history and daily experience afford of the "extraor- 
dinary pliability of human nature" (a phrase which I have some- 
where borrowed from him) ; nor did he think it possible to set any 
positive bounds to the moral capabilities which might unfold them- 
selves in mankind, under an enlightened direction of social and 
educational influences. Whether he retained all these opinions to 
the end of life I know not. Certainly the modes of thinking of his 
later years, and especially of his last publication, were much more 
Tory in their general character than those which he held at this 
time. 

My father's tone of thought and feeling, I now felt myself at a 
great distance from: greater, indeed, than a full and calm explana- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 113 

tion and reconsideration on both sides, might have shown to exist 
in reality. But my father was not one with whom calm and full 
explanations on fundamental points of doctrine could be expected, 
at least with one whom he might consider as, in some sort, a de- 
serter from his standard. 

Fortunately we were almost always in strong agreement on the 
political questions of the day, which engrossed a large part of his 
interest and of his conversation. On those matters of opinion on 
which we differed, we talked little. He knew that the habit of think- 
ing for myself, which his mode of education had fostered, some- 
times led me to opinions different from his, and he perceived from 
time to time that I did not always tell him how different. I expected 
no good, but only pain to both of us, from discussing our differences : 
and I never expressed them but when he gave utterance to some 
opinion or feeling repugnant to mine, in a manner which would 
have made it disingenuousness on my part to remain silent. 

It remains to speak of what I wrote during these years, which, 
independently of my contributions to newspapers, was considerable. 
In 1830 and 1831 I wrote the five Essays since published under the 
title of "Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy," 
almost as they now stand, except that in 1833 I partially rewrote the 
fifth Essay. They were written with no immediate purpose of 
publication; and when, some years later, I offered them to a pub- 
lisher, he declined them. They were only printed in 1844, after the 
success of the "System of Logic." I also resumed my speculations 
on this last subject, and puzzled myself, like others before me, with 
the great paradox of the discovery of new truths by general reason- 
ing. As to the fact, there could be no doubt. As little could it be 
doubted, that all reasoning is resolvable into syllogisms, and that 
in every syllogism the conclusion is actually contained and implied 
in the premises. How, being so contained and implied, it could be 
new truth, and how the theorems of geometry, so different in 
appearance from the definitions and axioms, could be all contained 
in these, was a difficulty which no one, I thought, had sufficiently 
felt, and which, at all events, no one had succeeded in clearing up. 
The explanations offered by Whately and others, though they might 
give a temporary satisfaction, always, in my mind, left a mist still 



114 JOHN STUART MILL 

hanging over the subject. At last, when reading a second or third 
time the chapters on Reasoning in the second volume o Dugald 
Stewart, interrogating myself on every point, and following out, 
as far as I knew how, every topic of thought which the book 
suggested, I came upon an idea of his respecting the use of axioms 
in ratiocination, which I did not remember to have before noticed, 
but which now, in meditating on it, seemed to me not only true of 
axioms, but of all general propositions whatever, and to be the key 
of the whole perplexity. From this germ grew the theory of the 
Syllogism propounded in the Second Book of the Logic; which I 
immediately fixed by writing it out. And now, with greatly in- 
creased hope of being able to produce a work on Logic, of some 
originality and value, I proceeded to write the First Book, from 
the rough and imperfect draft I had already made. What I now 
wrote became the basis of that part of the subsequent Treatise; except 
that it did not contain the Theory of Kinds, which was a later addi- 
tion, suggested by otherwise inextricable difficulties which met me 
in my first attempt to work out the subject of some of the concluding 
chapters of the Third Book. At the point which I had now reached 
I made a halt, which lasted five years. I had come to the end of my 
tether; I could make nothing satisfactory of Induction, at this time. 
I continued to read any book which seemed to promise light on 
the subject, and appropriated, as well as I could, the results; but for 
a long time I found nothing which seemed to open to me any 
very important vein of meditation. 

In 1832 I wrote several papers for the first series of Tait's Maga- 
zine, and one for a quarterly periodical called the Jurist, which had 
been founded, and for a short time carried on, by a set of friends, 
all lawyers and law reformers, with several of whom I was ac- 
quainted. The paper in question is the one on the rights and duties 
of the State respecting Corporation and Church Property, now 
standing first among the collected "Dissertations and Discussions;" 
where one of my articles in "Tait," "The Currency Juggle," also 
appears. In the whole mass of what I wrote previous to these, there 
is nothing of sufficient permanent value to justify reprinting. The 
paper in the Jurist, which I still think a very complete discussion of 
the rights of the State over Foundations, showed both sides of my 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 115 

opinions, asserting as firmly as I should have done at any time, the 
doctrine that all endowments are national property, which the 
government may and ought to control; but not, as I should once 
have done, condemning endowments in themselves, and proposing 
that they should be taken to pay off the national debt. On the 
contrary, I urged strenuously the importance of having a provision 
for education, not dependent on the mere demand of the market, 
that is, on the knowledge and discernment of average parents, but 
calculated to establish and keep up a higher standard of instruction 
than is likely to be spontaneously demanded by the buyers of the 
article. All these opinions have been confirmed and strengthened 
by the whole course of my subsequent reflections. 



CHAPTER VI 

COMMENCEMENT OF THE MOST VALUABLE FRIENDSHIP OF 

MY LIFE. MY FATHER'S DEATH. WRITINGS 

AND OTHER PROCEEDINGS UP TO 1840. 

IT was at the period of my mental progress which I have now 
reached that I formed the friendship which has been the honour 
and chief blessing of my existence, as well as the source of a 
great part of all that I have attempted to do, or hope to effect here- 
after, for human improvement. My first introduction to the lady 
who, after a friendship of twenty years, consented to become my 
wife, was in 1830, when I was in my twenty-fifth and she in her 
twenty-third year. With her husband's family it was the renewal 
of an old acquaintanceship. His grandfather lived in the next house 
to my father's in Newington Green, and I had, sometimes when a 
boy, been invited to play in the old gentleman's garden. He was 
a fine specimen of the old Scotch Puritan; stern, severe, and power- 
ful, but very kind to children, on whom such men make a lasting 
impression. Although it was years after my introduction to Mrs. 
Taylor before my acquaintance with her became at all intimate 
or confidential, I very soon felt her to be the most admirable person 
I had ever known. It is not to be supposed that she was, or that 
any one, at the age at which I first saw her, could be, all that she 
afterwards became. Least of all could this be true of her, with 
whom self-improvement, progress in the highest and in all senses, 
was a law of her nature; a necessity equally from the ardour with 
which she sought it, and from the spontaneous tendency of faculties 
which could not receive an impression or an experience without 
making it the source or the occasion of an accession of wisdom. Up 
to the time when I first saw her, her rich and powerful nature had 
chiefly unfolded itself according to the received type of feminine 
genius. To her outer circle she was a beauty and a wit, with an air 
of natural distinction, felt by all who approached her: to the inner, 

n6 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 117 

a woman of deep and strong feeling, of penetrating and intuitive 
intelligence, and of an eminently meditative and poetic nature. 
Married at an early age, to a most upright, brave, and honourable 
man, of liberal opinions and good education, but without the intel- 
lectual or artistic tastes which would have made him a companion 
for her, though a steady and affectionate friend, for whom she had 
true esteem and the strongest affection through life, and whom she 
most deeply lamented when dead; shut out by the social disabilities 
of women from any adequate exercise of her highest faculties in 
action on the world without; her life was one of inward meditation, 
varied by familiar intercourse with a small circle of friends, of whom 
one only (long since deceased) was a person of genius, or of capac- 
ities of feeling or intellect kindred with her own, but all had more 
or less of alliance with her in sentiments and opinions. Into this 
circle I had the good fortune to be admitted, and I soon perceived 
that she possessed in combination, the qualities which in all other 
persons whom I had known I had been only too happy to find 
singly. In her, complete emancipation from every kind of super- 
stition (including that which attributes a pretended perfection to 
the order of nature and the universe), and an earnest protest against 
many things which are still part of the established constitution of 
society, resulted not from the hard intellect, but from strength of 
noble and elevated feeling, and co-existed with a highly reverential 
nature. In general spiritual characteristics, as well as in tempera- 
ment and organization, I have often compared her, as she was at 
this time, to Shelley: but in thought and intellect, Shelley, so far as 
his powers were developed in his short life, was but a child com- 
pared with what she ultimately became. Alike in the highest re- 
gions of speculation and in the smaller practical concerns of daily 
life, her mind was the same perfect instrument, piercing to the very 
heart and marrow of the matter; always seizing the essential idea or 
principle. The same exactness and rapidity of operation, pervading 
as it did her sensitive as well as her mental faculties, would, with 
her gifts of feeling and imagination, have fitted her to be a consum- 
mate artist, as her fiery and tender soul and her vigorous eloquence 
would certainly have made her a great orator, and her profound 
knowledge of human nature and discernment and sagacity in prac- 



Il8 JOHN STUART MILL 

tical life, would, in the times when such a carriers was open to 
women, have made her eminent among the rulers of mankind. Her 
intellectual gifts did but minister to a moral character at once the 
noblest and the best balanced which I have ever met with in life. 
Her unselfishness was not that of a taught system of duties, but of 
a heart which thoroughly identified itself with the feelings of others, 
and often went to excess in consideration for them by imaginatively 
investing their feelings with the intensity of its own. The passion 
of justice might have been thought to be her strongest feeling, but 
for her boundless generosity, and a lovingness ever ready to pour 
itself forth upon any or all human beings who were capable of 
giving the smallest feeling in return. The rest of her moral charac- 
teristics were such as naturally accompany these qualities of mind 
and heart: the most genuine modesty combined with the loftiest 
pride; a simplicity and sincerity which were absolute, towards all 
who were fit to receive them; the utmost scorn of whatever was 
mean and cowardly, and a burning indignation at everything brutal 
or tyrannical, faithless or dishonourable in conduct and character, 
while making the broadest distinction between mala in se and mere 
mala prohibita between acts giving evidence of intrinsic badness 
in feeling and character, and those which are only violations of con- 
ventions either good or bad, violations which whether in themselves 
right or wrong, are capable of being committed by persons in every 
other respect loveable or admirable. 

To be admitted into any degree of mental intercourse with a 
being of these qualities, could not but have a most beneficial influ- 
ence on my development; though the effect was only gradual, and 
many years elapsed before her mental progress and mine went for- 
ward in the complete companionship they at last attained. The ben- 
efit I received was far greater than any which I could hope to give; 
though to her, who had at first reached her opinions by the moral 
intuition of a character of strong feeling, there was doubtless help 
as well as encouragement to be derived from one who had arrived 
at many of the same results by study and reasoning: and in the 
rapidity of her intellectual growth, her mental activity, which con- 
verted everything into knowledge, doubtless drew from me, as it did 
from other sources, many of its materials. What I owe, even 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 119 

intellectually, to her, is in its detail, almost infinite; of its general 
character a few words will give some, though a very imperfect, idea. 

With those who, like all the best and wisest of mankind, are dis- 
satisfied with human life as it is, and whose feelings are wholly 
identified with its radical amendment, there are two main regions 
of thought. One is the region of ultimate aims; the constituent ele- 
ments of the highest realizable ideal of human life. The other is 
that of the immediately useful and practically attainable. In both 
these departments, I have acquired more from her teaching, than 
from all other sources taken together. And, to say truth, it is in 
these two extremes principally, that real certainty lies. My own 
strength lay wholly in the uncertain and slippery intermediate 
region, that of theory, on moral and political science: respecting 
the conclusions of which, in any of the forms in which I have re- 
ceived or originated them, whether as political economy, analytic 
psychology, logic, philosophy of history, or anything else, it is not 
the least of my intellectual obligations to her that I have derived 
from her a wise scepticism, which, while it has not hindered me 
from following out the honest exercise of my thinking faculties to 
whatever conclusions might result from it, has put me on my guard 
against holding or announcing these conclusions with a degree of 
confidence which the nature of such speculations does not warrant, 
and has kept my mind not only open to admit, but prompt to wel- 
come and eager to seek, even on the questions on which I have 
most meditated, any prospect of clearer perceptions and better evi- 
dence. I have often received praise, which in my own right I only 
partially deserve, for the greater practicality which is supposed to 
be found in my writings, compared with those of most thinkers 
who have been equally addicted to large generalizations. The writ- 
ings in which this quality has been observed, were not the work of 
one mind, but of the fusion of two, one of them as pre-eminently 
practical in its judgments and perceptions of things present, as it 
was high and bold in its anticipations for a remote futurity. 

At the present period, however, this influence was only one among 
many which were helping to shape the character of my future de- 
velopment : and even after it became, I may truly say, the presiding 
principle of my mental progress, it did not alter the path, but only 



I2O JOHN STUART MILL 

made me move forward more boldly, and, at the same time, more 
cautiously, in the same course. The only actual revolution which 
has ever taken place in my modes of thinking, was already com- 
plete. My new tendencies had to be confirmed in some respects, 
moderated in others: but the only substantial changes of opinion 
that were yet to come, related to politics, and consisted, on one hand, 
in a greater approximation, so far as regards the ultimate prospects 
of humanity, to a qualified Socialism, and on the other, a shifting 
of my political ideal from pure democracy, as commonly understood 
by its partizans, to the modified form of it, which is set forth in my 
"Considerations on Representative Government." 

This last change, which took place very gradually, dates its com- 
mencement from my reading, or rather study, of M. de Tocque- 
ville's "Democracy in America," which fell into my hands immedi- 
ately after its first appearance. In that remarkable work, the excel- 
lences of democracy were pointed out in a more conclusive, because 
a more specific manner than I had ever known them to be, even 
by the most enthusiastic democrats; while the specific dangers which 
beset democracy, considered as the government of the numerical 
majority, were brought into equally strong light, and subjected to a 
masterly analysis, not as reasons for resisting what the author con- 
sidered as an inevitable result of human progress, but as indications 
of the weak points of popular government, the defences by which 
it needs to be guarded, and the correctives which must be added 
to it in order that while full play is given to its beneficial tendencies, 
those which are of a different nature may be neutralized or miti- 
gated. I was now well prepared for speculations of this character, 
and from this time onward my own thoughts moved more and more 
in the same channel, though the consequent modifications in my 
practical political creed were spread over many years, as would be 
shown by comparing my first review of "Democracy in America," 
written and published in 1835, with the one in 1840 (reprinted in 
the "Dissertations"), and this last, with the "Considerations on Rep- 
resentative Government." 

A collateral subject on which also I derived great benefit from the 
study of Tocqueville, was the fundamental question of centraliza- 
tion. The powerful philosophic analysis which he applied to Amer- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 121 

ican and to French experience, led him to attach the utmost impor- 
tance to the performance of as much of the collective business of 
society, as can safely be so performed, by the people themselves, 
without any intervention of the executive government, either to 
supersede their agency, or to dictate the manner of its exercise. He 
viewed this practical political activity of the individual citizen, not 
only as one of the most effectual means of training the social feelings 
and practical intelligence of the people, so important in themselves, 
and so indispensable to good government, but also as the specific 
counteractive to some of the characteristic infirmities of democracy, 
and a necessary protection against its degenerating into the only 
despotism of which, in the modern world, there is real danger the 
absolute rule of the head of the executive over a congregation of 
isolated individuals, all equals but all slaves. There was, indeed, 
no immediate peril from this source on the British side of the chan- 
nel, where nine-tenths of the internal business which elsewhere 
devolves on the government, was transacted by agencies independent 
of it; where centralization was, and is, the subject not only of na- 
tional disapprobation, but of unreasoning prejudice; where jealousy 
of government interference was a blind feeling preventing or resist- 
ing even the most beneficial exertion of legislative authority to cor- 
rect the abuses of what pretends to be local self-government, but is, 
too often, selfish mismanagement of local interests, by a jobbing 
and borne local oligarchy. But the more certain the public were 
to go wrong on the side opposed to centralization, the greater danger 
was there lest philosophic reformers should fall into the contrary 
error, and overlook the mischiefs of which they had been spared 
the painful experience. I was myself, at this very time, actively en- 
gaged in defending important measures, such as the great Poor 
Law Reform of 1834, against an irrational clamour grounded on 
the anti-centralization prejudice: and had it not been for the lessons 
of Tocqueville, I do not know that I might not, like many re- 
formers before me, have been hurried into the excess opposite to 
that, which, being the one prevalent in my own! country, it was 
generally my business to combat. As it is, I have steered carefully 
between the two errors, and whether I have or have not drawn the 
line between them exactly in the right place, I have at least insisted 



122 JOHN STUART MILL 

with equal emphasis upon the evils on both sides, and have made 
the means of reconciling the advantages of both, a subject of serious 
study. 

In the meanwhile had taken place the election of the first Re- 
formed Parliament, which included several of the most notable of 
my Radical friends and acquaintances Grote, Roebuck, Buller, Sir 
William Molesworth, John and Edward Romilly, and several more; 
besides Warburton, Strutt, and others, who were in Parliament 
already. Those who thought themselves, and were called by their 
friends, the philosophic Radicals, had now, it seemed, a fair oppor- 
tunity, in a more advantageous position than they had ever before 
occupied, for showing what was in them; and I, as well as my father, 
founded great hopes on them. These hopes were destined to be 
disappointed. The men were honest, and faithful to their opinions, 
as far as votes were concerned; often in spite of much discourage- 
ment. When measures were proposed, flagrantly at variance with 
their principles, such as the Irish Coercion Bill, or the Canada Co- 
ercion in 1837, they came forward manfully, and braved any amount 
of hostility and prejudice rather than desert the right. But on the 
whole they did very little to promote any opinions; they had little 
enterprise, little activity : they left the lead of the Radical portion, of 
the House to the old hands, to Hume and O'Connell. A partial excep- 
tion must be made in favour of one or two of the younger men; and 
in the case of Roebuck, it is his title to permanent remembrance, that 
in the very first year during which he sat in Parliament, he originated 
(or re-originated after the unsuccessful attempt of Mr. Brougham) 
the parliamentary movement for National Education; and that he 
was the first to commence, and for years carried on almost alone, 
the contest for the self-government of the Colonies. Nothing, on 
the whole equal to these two things, was done by any other indi- 
vidual, even of those from whom most was expected. And now, on 
a calm retrospect, I can perceive that the men were less in fault 
than we supposed, and that we had expected too much from them. 
They were in unfavourable circumstances. Their lot was cast in 
the ten years of inevitable reaction, when, the Reform excitement 
being over, and the few legislative improvements which the public 
really called for having been rapidly effected, power gravitated back 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 123 

in its natural direction, to those who were for keeping things as 
they were; when the public mind desired rest, and was less disposed 
than at any other period since the peace, to let itself be moved by 
attempts to work up the Reform feeling into fresh activity in favour 
of new things. It would have required a great political leader, which 
no one is to be blamed for not being, to have effected really great 
things by parliamentary discussion when the nation was in this 
mood. My father and I had hoped that some competent leader 
might arise; some man of philosophic attainments and popular tal- 
ents, who could have put heart into the many younger or less dis- 
tinguished men that would have been ready to join him could 
have made them available, to the extent of their talents, in bringing 
advanced ideas before the public could have used the House of 
Commons as a rostra or a teacher's chair for instructing and im- 
pelling the public mind; and would either have forced the Whigs 
to receive their measures from him, or have taken the lead of the 
Reform party out of their hands. Such a leader there would have 
been, if my father had been in Parliament. For want of such a 
man, the instructed Radicals sank into a mere Cote Gauche of the 
Whig party. With a keen, and as I now think, an exaggerated sense 
of the possibilities which were open to the Radicals if they made 
even ordinary exertion for their opinions, I laboured from this time 
till 1839, both by personal influence with some of them, and by writ- 
ings, to put ideas into their heads, and purpose into their hearts. I 
did some good with Charles Buller, and some with Sir William 
Molesworth; both of whom did valuable service, but were unhap- 
pily cut off almost in the beginning of their usefulness. On the 
whole, however, my attempt was vain. To have had a chance of 
succeeding in it, required a different position from mine. It was a 
task only for one who, being himself in Parliament, could have 
mixed with the Radical members in daily consultation, could him- 
self have taken the initiative, and instead of urging others to lead, 
could have summoned them to follow. 

What I could do by writing, I did. During the year 1833 I con- 
tinued working in the Examiner with Fonblanque, who at that 
time was zealous in keeping up the fight for Radicalism against the 
Whig ministry. During the session of 1834 I wrote comments on 



124 JOHN STUART MILL 

passing events, of the nature of newspaper articles (under the title 
of "Notes on the Newspapers"), in the Monthly Repository, a mag- 
azine conducted by Mr. Fox, well known as a preacher and political 
orator, and subsequently as member of Parliament for Oldham; 
with whom I had lately become acquainted, and for whose sake 
chiefly I wrote in his magazine. I contributed several other articles 
to this periodical, the most considerable of which (on the theory of 
Poetry), is reprinted in the "Dissertations." Altogether, the writings 
(independently of those in newspapers) which I published from 
1832 to 1834, amount to a large volume. This, however, includes 
abstracts of several of Plato's Dialogues, with introductory remarks, 
which, though not published until 1834, had been written several 
years earlier; and which I afterwards, on various occasions, found to 
have been read, and their authorship known, by more people than 
were aware of anything else which I had written, up to that time. 
To complete the tale of my writings at this period, I may add that 
in 1833, at the request of Bulwer, who was just then completing his 
"England and the English" (a work, at that time, greatly in ad- 
vance of the public mind), I wrote for him a critical account of 
Bentham's philosophy, a small part of which he incorporated in his 
text, and printed the rest (with an honourable acknowledgment), 
as an appendix. In this, along with the favourable, a part also of 
the unfavourable side of my estimation of Bentham's doctrines, con- 
sidered as a complete philosophy, was for the first time put into 
print. 

But an opportunity soon offered, by which, as it seemed, I might 
have it in my power to give more effectual aid, and, at the same 
time, stimulus, to the "philosophic Radical" party, than I had done 
hitherto. One of the projects occasionally talked of between my 
father and me, and some of the parliamentary and other Radicals 
who frequented his house, was the foundation of a periodical organ 
of philosophic radicalism, to take the place which the Westminster 
Review had been intended to fill: and the scheme had gone so far 
as to bring under discussion the pecuniary contributions which 
could be looked for, and the choice of an editor. Nothing, however, 
came of it for some time: but in the summer of 1834 Sir William 
Molesworth, himself a laborious student, and a precise and meta- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 125 

physical thinker, capable of aiding the cause by his pen as well as 
by his purse, spontaneously proposed to establish a Review, provided 
I would consent to be the real, if I could not be the ostensible editor. 
Such a proposal was not to be refused; and the Review was founded, 
at first under the title of the London Review, and afterwards under 
that of the London and Westminster, Molesworth having bought 
the Westminster from its proprietor, General Thompson, and 
merged the two into one. In the years between 1834 and 1840 the 
conduct of this Review occupied the greater part of my spare time. 
In the beginning, it did not, as a whole, by any means represent my 
'opinions. I was under the necessity of conceding much to my in- 
evitable associates. The Review was established to be the representa- 
tive of the "philosophic Radicals," with most of whom I was not 
at issue on many essential points, and among whom I could not 
even claim to be the most important individual. My father's co- 
operation as a writer we all deemed indispensable, and he wrote 
largely in it until prevented by his last illness. The subjects of his 
articles, and the strength and decision with which his opinions were 
expressed in them, made the Review at first derive its tone and col- 
ouring from him much more than from any of the other writers. I 
could not exercise editorial control over his articles, and I was some- 
times obliged to sacrifice to him portions of my own. The old West- 
minster Review doctrines, but little modified, thus formed the staple 
of the Review; but I hoped, by the side of these, to introduce other 
ideas and another tone, and to obtain for my own shade of opinion a 
fair representation, along with those of other members of the party. 
With this end chiefly in view, I made it one of the peculiarities of the 
work that every article should bear an initial, or some other signature, 
and be held to express the opinions solely of the individual writer; 
the editor being only responsible for its being worth publishing, and 
not in conflict with the objects for which the Review was set on 
foot. I had an opportunity of putting in practice my scheme of 
conciliation between the old and the new "philosophic radicalism," 
by the choice of a subject for my own first contribution. Professor 
Sedgwick, a man of eminence in a particular walk of natural science, 
but who should not have trespassed into philosophy, had lately pub- 
lished his Discourse on the Studies of Cambridge, which had as 



126 JOHN STUART MILL 

its most prominent feature an intemperate assault on analytic 
psychology and utilitarian ethics, in the form of an attack on Locke 
and Paley. This had excited great indignation in my father and 
others, which I thought it fully deserved. And here, I imagined, 
was an opportunity of at the same time repelling an unjust attack, 
and inserting into my defence of Hartleianism and Utilitarianism 
a number of the opinions which constituted my view of those sub- 
jects, as distinguished from that of my old associates. In this I 
partially succeeded, though my relation to my father would have 
made it painful to me in any case, and impossible in a Review for 
which he wrote, to speak out my whole mind on the subject at this 
time. 

I am, however, inclined to think that my father was not so much 
opposed as he seemed, to the modes of thought in which I believed 
myself to differ from him; that he did injustice to his own opinions 
by the unconscious exaggerations of an intellect emphatically po- 
lemical; and that when thinking without an adversary in view, he 
was willing to make room for a great portion of the truths he 
seemed to deny. I have frequently observed that he made large 
allowance in practice for considerations which seemed to have no 
place in his theory. His "Fragment on Mackintosh," which he wrote 
and published about this time, although I greatly admired some 
parts of it, I read as a whole with more pain than pleasure; yet on 
reading it again, long after, I found little in the opinions it contains, 
but what I think in the main just; and I can even sympathize in 
his disgust at the verbiage of Mackintosh, though his asperity 
towards it went not only beyond what was judicious, but beyond 
what was even fair. One thing, which I thought, at the time, of 
good augury, was the very favourable reception he gave to Tocque- 
ville's "Democracy in America." It is true, he said and thought 
much more about what Tocqueville said in favour of democracy, 
than what he said of its disadvantages. Still, his high appreciation 
of a book which was at any rate an example of a mode of treating 
the question of government almost the reverse of his wholly in- 
ductive and analytical, instead of purely ratiocinative gave me great 
encouragement. He also approved of an article which I published 
in the first number following the junction of the two reviews, the 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1 2J 

essay reprinted in the "Dissertations," under the title "Civilization;" 
into which I threw many of my new opinions, and criticised rather 
emphatically the mental and moral tendencies of the time, on 
grounds and in a manner which I certainly had not learnt from 
him. 

All speculation, however, on the possible future developments of 
my father's opinions, and on the probabilities of permanent co- 
operation between him and me in the promulgation of our thoughts, 
was doomed to be cut short. During the whole of 1835 his health 
had been declining: his symptoms became unequivocally those of 
pulmonary consumption, and after lingering to the last stage of 
debility, he died on the 23rd of June, 1836. Until the last few days 
of his life there was no apparent abatement of intellectual vigour; 
his interest in all things and persons that had interested him through 
life was undiminished, nor did the approach of death cause the 
smallest wavering (as in so strong and firm a mind it was impossible 
that it should) in his convictions on the subject of religion. His 
principal satisfaction, after he knew that his end was near, seemed 
to be the thought of what he had done to make the world better 
than he found it; and his chief regret in not living longer, that 
he had not had time to do more. 

His place is an eminent one in the literary, and even in the 
political history of his country; and it is far from honourable to 
the generation which has benefited by his worth, that he is so 
seldom mentioned, and, compared with men far his inferiors, so 
little remembered. This is probably to be ascribed mainly to two 
causes. In the first place, the thought of him merges too much in 
the deservedly superior fame of Bentham. Yet he was anything but 
Bentham's mere follower or disciple. Precisely because he was him- 
self one of the most original thinkers of his time, he was one of the 
earliest to appreciate and adopt the most important mass of original 
thought which had been produced by the generation preceding him. 
His mind and Bentham's were essentially of different construction. 
He had not all Bentham's high qualities, but neither had Bentham 
all his. It would, indeed, be ridiculous to claim for him the praise 
of having accomplished for mankind such splendid services as 
Bentham's. He did not revolutionize, or rather create, one of the 



128 JOHN STUART MILL 

great departments of human thought. But, leaving out of the 
reckoning all that portion of his labours in which he benefited by 
what Bentham had done, and counting only what he achieved in 
a province in which Bentham had done nothing, that of analytic 
psychology, he will be known to posterity as one of the greatest 
names in that most important branch of speculation, on which all 
the moral and political sciences ultimately rest, and will mark one 
of the essential stages in its progress. The other reason which has 
made his fame less than he deserved, is that notwithstanding the 
great number of his opinions which, partly through his own efforts, 
have now been generally adopted, there was, on the whole, a marked 
opposition between his spirit and that of the present time. As 
Brutus was called the last of the Romans, so was he the last of the 
eighteenth century: he continued its tone of thought and sentiment 
into the nineteenth (though not unmodified nor unimproved), 
partaking neither in the good nor in the bad influences of the re- 
action against the eighteenth century, which was the great char- 
acteristic of the first half of the nineteenth. The eighteenth century 
was a great age, an age of strong and brave men, and he was a fit 
companion for its strongest and bravest. By his writings and his 
personal influence he was a great centre of light to his generation. 
During his later years he was quite as much the head and leader 
of the intellectual radicals in England, as Voltaire was of the 
philosophes of France. It is only one of his minor merits, that he 
was the originator of all sound statesmanship in regard to the 
subject of his largest work, India. He wrote on no subject which he 
did not enrich with valuable thought, and excepting the "Elements 
of Political Economy," a very useful book when first written, but 
which has now for some time finished its work, it will be long 
before any of his books will be wholly superseded, or will cease to 
be instructive reading to students of their subjects. In the power of 
influencing by mere force of mind and character, the convictions 
and purposes of others, and in the strenuous exertion of that power 
to promote freedom and progress, he left, as my knowledge extends, 
no equal among men and but one among women. 

Though acutely sensible of my own inferiority in the qualities by 
which he acquired his personal ascendancy, I had now to try what 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 129 

it might be possible for me to accomplish without him: and the 
Review was the instrument on which I built my chief hopes of 
establishing a useful influence over the liberal and democratic section 
of the public mind. Deprived of my father's aid, I was also exempted 
from the restraints and reticences by which that aid had been 
purchased. I did not feel that there was any other radical writer or 
politician to whom I was bound to defer, further than consisted 
with my own opinions: and having the complete confidence of 
Molesworth, I resolved henceforth to give full scope to my own 
opinions and modes of thought, and to open the Review widely to 
all writers who were in sympathy with Progress as I understood it, 
even though I should lose by it the support of my former associates. 
Carlyle, consequently, became from this time a frequent writer in 
the Review; Sterling, soon after, an occasional one; and though each 
individual article continued to be the expression of the private 
sentiments of its writer, the general tone conformed in some tolerable 
degree to my opinions. For the conduct of the Review, under, and 
in conjunction with me, I associated with myself a young Scotch- 
man of the name of Robertson, who had some ability and informa- 
tion, much industry, and an active scheming head, full of devices 
for making the Review more saleable, and on whose capacities in 
that direction I founded a good deal of hope: insomuch, that when 
Molesworth, in the beginning of 1837, became tired of carrying on 
the Review at a loss, and desirous of getting rid of it (he had done 
his part honourably, and at no small pecuniary cost), I, very im- 
prudently for my own pecuniary interest, and very much from 
reliance on Robertson's devices, determined to continue it at my 
own risk, until his plans should have had a fair trial. The devices 
were good, and I never had any reason to change my opinion of 
them. But I do not believe that any devices would have made a 
radical and democratic review defray its own expenses, including 
a paid editor or sub-editor, and a liberal payment to writers. I my- 
self and several frequent contributors gave our labour gratuitously, 
as we had done for Molesworth; but the paid contributors continued 
to be remunerated on the usual scale of the Edinburgh and 
Quarterly Reviews; and this could not be done from the proceeds 
of the sale. 



130 JOHN STUART MILL 

In the same year, 1837, and in the midst of these occupations, I 
resumed the Logic. I had not touched my pen on the subject for 
five years, having been stopped and brought to a halt on the thresh- 
old of Induction. I had gradually discovered that what was mainly 
wanting, to overcome the difficulties of that branch of the subject, 
was a comprehensive, and, at the same time, accurate view of the 
whole circle of physical science, which I feared it would take me a 
long course of study to acquire; since I knew not of any book, or 
other guide, that would spread out before me the generalities and 
processes of the sciences, and I apprehended that I should have no 
choice but to extract them for myself, as I best could, from the details. 
Happily for me, Dr. Whewell, early in this year, published his 
History of the Inductive Sciences. I read it with eagerness, and 
found in it a considerable approximation to what I wanted. Much, 
if not most, of the philosophy of the work appeared open to objec- 
tion; but the materials were there, for my own thoughts to work 
upon: and the author had given to those materials that first degree 
of elaboration, which so greatly facilitates and abridges the sub- 
sequent labour. I had now obtained what I had been waiting for. 
Under the impulse given me by the thoughts excited by Dr. Whe- 
well, I read again Sir J. Herschel's discourse on the Study of 
Natural Philosophy: and I was able to measure the progress my 
mind had made, by the great help I now found in this work- 
though I had read and even reviewed it several years before with 
little profit. I now set myself vigorously to work out the subject 
in thought and in writing. The time I bestowed on this had to be 
stolen from occupations more urgent. I had just two months to 
spare, at this period, in the intervals of writing for the Review. In 
these two months I completed the first draft of about a third, the 
most difficult third, of the book. What I had before written, I 
estimate at another third, so that only one-third remained. What I 
wrote at this time consisted of the remainder of the doctrine of 
Reasoning (the theory of Trains of Reasoning, and Demonstrative 
Science), and the greater part of the Book on Induction. When this 
was done, I had, as it seemed to me, untied all the really hard knots, 
and the completion of the book had become only a question of 
time, Having got thus far, I had to leave off in order to write two 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 13! 

articles for the next number o the Review. When these were 
written, I returned to the subject, and now for the first time fell 
in with Comte's Cour de Philosophic Positive, or rather with the 
two volumes of it which were all that had at that time been 
published. 

My theory of Induction was substantially completed before I knew 
of Comte's book; and it is perhaps well that I came to it by a 
different road from his, since the consequence has been that my 
treatise contains, what his certainly does not, a reduction of the 
inductive process to strict rules and to a scientific test, such as the 
syllogism is for ratiocination. Comte is always precise and profound 
on the method of investigation, but he does not even attempt any 
exact definition of the conditions of proof: and his writings show 
that he never attained a just conception of them. This, however, 
was specifically the problem which, in treating of Induction, I had 
proposed to myself. Nevertheless, I gained much from Comte, with 
which to enrich my chapters in the subsequent rewriting; and his 
book was of essential service to me in some of the parts which 
still remained to be thought out. As his subsequent volumes suc- 
cessively made their appearance, I read them with avidity, but, when 
he reached the subject of Social Science, with varying feelings. The 
fourth volume disappointed me: it contained those of his opinions 
on social subjects with which I most disagree. But the fifth, con- 
taining the connected view of history, rekindled all my enthusiasm; 
which the sixth (or concluding) volume did not materially abate. 
In a merely logical point of view, the only leading conception for 
which I am indebted to him is that of the Inverse Deductive Method, 
as the one chiefly applicable to the complicated subjects of History 
and Statistics: a process differing from the more common form of 
the deductive method in this that instead of arriving at its con- 
clusions by general reasoning, and verifying them by specific ex- 
perience (as is the natural order in the deductive branches of 
physical science), it obtains its generalizations by a collation of spe- 
cific experience, and verifies them by ascertaining whether they are 
such as would follow from known general principles. This was an 
idea entirely new to me when I found it in Comte: and but for him 
I might not soon (if ever) have arrived at it. 



132 JOHN STUART MILL 

I had been long an ardent admirer of Comte's writings before I 
had any communication with himself; nor did I ever, to the last, see 
him in the body. But for some years we were frequent corre- 
spondents, until our correspondence became controversial, and our 
zeal cooled. I was the first to slacken correspondence; he was the 
first to drop it. I found, and he probably found likewise, that I 
could do no good to his mind, and that all the good he could do 
to mine, he did by his books. This would never have led to dis- 
continuance of intercourse, if the differences between us had been 
on matters of simple doctrine. But they were chiefly on those points 
of opinion which blended in both of us with our strongest feelings, 
and determined the entire direction of our aspirations. I had fully 
agreed with him when he maintained that the mass of mankind, 
including even their rulers in all the practical departments of life, 
must, from the necessity of the case, accept most of their opinions 
on political and social matters, as they do on physical, from the 
authority of those who have bestowed more study on those subjects 
than they generally have it in their power to do. This lesson had 
been strongly impressed on me by the early work of Comte, to 
which I have adverted. And there was nothing in his great Treatise 
which I admired more than his remarkable exposition of the benefits 
which the nations of modern Europe have historically derived from 
the separation, during the Middle Ages, of temporal and spiritual 
power, and the distinct organization of the latter. I agreed with 
him that the moral and intellectual ascendancy, once exercised by 
priests, must in time pass into the hands of philosophers, and will 
naturally do so when they become sufficiently unanimous, and in 
other respects worthy to possess it. But when he exaggerated this 
line of thought into a practical system, in which philosophers were 
to be organized into a kind of corporate hierarchy, invested with 
almost the same spiritual supremacy (though without any secular 
power) once possessed by the Catholic Church; when I found him 
relying on this spiritual authority as the only security for good 
government, the sole bulwark against practical oppression, and ex- 
pecting that by it a system of despotism in the state and despotism 
in the family would be rendered innocuous and beneficial; it is not 
surprising, that while as logicians we were nearly at one, as 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 133 

sociologists we could travel together no further. M. Comte lived 
to carry out these doctrines to their extremest consequences, by 
planning, in his last work, the "Systeme de Politique Positive," the 
completest system of spiritual and temporal despotism which ever 
yet emanated from a human brain, unless possibly that of Ignatius 
Loyola: a system by which the yoke of general opinion, wielded by 
an organized body of spiritual teachers and rulers, would be made 
supreme over every action, and as far as is in human possibility, 
every thought, of every member of the community, as well in the 
things which regard only himself, as in those which concern the 
interests of others. It is but just to say that this work is a con- 
siderable improvement, in many points of feeling, over Comte's 
previous writings on the same subjects: but as an accession to social 
philosophy, the only value it seems to me to possess, consists in 
putting an end to the notion that no effectual moral authority can 
be maintained over society without the aid of religious belief; for 
Comte's work recognizes no religion except that of Humanity, yet 
it leaves an irresistible conviction that any moral beliefs concurred in 
by the community generally, may be brought to bear upon the whole 
conduct and lives of its individual members, with an energy and 
potency truly alarming to think of. The book stands a monu- 
mental warning to thinkers on society and politics, of what happens 
when once men lose sight in their speculations, of the value of 
Liberty and of Individuality. 

To return to myself. The Review engrossed, for some time longer, 
nearly all the time I could devote to authorship, or to thinking with 
authorship in view. The articles from the London and Westminster 
Review which are reprinted in the "Dissertations," are scarcely a 
fourth part of those I wrote. In the conduct of the Review I had 
two principal objects. One was to free philosophic radicalism from 
the reproach of sectarian Benthamism. I desired, while retaining 
the precision of expression, the definiteness of meaning, the con- 
tempt of declamatory phrases and vague generalities, which were 
so honourably characteristic both of Bentham and of my father, 
to give a wider basis and a more free and genial character to Radical 
speculations; to show that there was a Radical philosophy, better 
and more complete than Bentham's, while recognizing and in- 



134 JOHN STUART MILL 

corporating all of Bentham's which is permanently valuable. In 
this first object I, to a certain extent, succeeded. The other thing I 
attempted, was to stir up the educated Radicals, in and out of 
Parliament, to exertion, and induce them to make themselves, what 
I thought by using the proper means they might become a power- 
ful party capable of taking the government of the country, or at 
least of dictating the terms on which they should share it with 
the Whigs. This attempt was from the first chimerical: partly be- 
cause the time was unpropitious, the Reform fervour being in its 
period of ebb, and the Tory influences powerfully rallying; but still 
more, because, as Austin so truly said, "the country did not contain 
the men." Among the Radicals in Parliament there were several 
qualified to be useful members of an enlightened Radical party, 
but none capable of forming and leading such a party. The ex- 
hortations I addressed to them found no response. One occasion did 
present itself when there seemed to be room for a bold and success- 
ful stroke for Radicalism. Lord Durham had left the Ministry, by 
reason, as was thought, of their not being sufficiently Liberal; he 
afterwards accepted from them the task of ascertaining and re- 
moving the causes of the Canadian rebellion; he had shown a 
disposition to surround himself at the outset with Radical advisers; 
one of his earliest measures, a good measure both in intention and 
in effect, having been disapproved and reversed by the Government 
at home, he had resigned his post, and placed himself openly in a 
position of quarrel with the Ministers. Here was a possible chief 
for a Radical party in the person of a man of importance, who was 
hated by the Tories and had just been injured by the Whigs. Any 
one who had the most elementary notions of party tactics, must 
have attempted to make something of such an opportunity. Lord 
Durham was bitterly attacked from all sides, inveighed against by 
enemies, given up by timid friends; while those who would willingly 
have defended him did not know what to say. He appeared to be 
returning a defeated and discredited man. I had followed the 
Canadian events from the beginning; I had been one of the 
prompters of his prompters; his policy was almost exactly what 
mine would have been, and I was in a position to defend it. I wrote 
and published a manifesto in the Review, in which I took the very 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 135 

highest ground in his behalf, claiming for him not mere acquittal, 
but praise and honour. Instantly a number of other writers took up 
the tone: I believe there was a portion of truth in what Lord Dur- 
ham, soon after, with polite exaggeration, said to me that to this 
article might be ascribed the almost triumphant reception which he 
met with on his arrival in England. I believe it to have been the 
word in season, which, at a critical moment, does much to decide the 
result; the touch which determines whether a stone, set in motion 
at the top of an eminence, shall roll down on one side or on the 
other. All hopes connected with Lord Durham as a politician soon 
vanished; but with regard to Canadian, and generally to colonial 
policy, the cause was gained: Lord Durham's report, written by 
Charles Buller, partly under the inspiration of Wakefield, began a 
new era; its recommendations, extending to complete internal self- 
government, were in full operation in Canada within two or three 
years, and have been since extended to nearly all the other colonies, 
of European race, which have any claim to the character of im- 
portant communities. And I may say that in successfully upholding 
the reputation of Lord Durham and his advisers at the most im- 
portant moment, I contributed materially to this result. 

One other case occurred during my conduct of the Review, which 
similarly illustrated the effect of taking a prompt initiative. I be- 
lieve that the early success and reputation of Carlyle's French Revo- 
lution, were considerably accelerated by what I wrote about it in 
the Review. Immediately on its publication, and before the com- 
monplace critics, all whose rules and modes of judgment it set at 
defiance, had time to pre-occupy the public with their disapproval of 
it, I wrote and published a review of the book, hailing it as one of 
those productions of genius which are above all rules, and are a law 
to themselves. Neither in this case nor in that of Lord Durham do 
I ascribe the impression, which I think was produced by what I 
wrote, to any particular merit of execution: indeed, in at least one 
of the cases (the article on Carlyle) I do not think the execution was 
good. And in both instances, I am persuaded that anybody, in a 
position to be read, who had expressed the same opinion at the same 
precise time, and had made any tolerable statement of the just 
grounds for it, would have produced the same effect. But, after 



136 JOHN STUART MILL 

the complete failure of my hopes of putting a new life into Radical 
politics by means of the Review, I am glad to look back on these two 
instances of success in an honest attempt to do immediate service 
to things and persons that deserved it. 

After the last hope of the formation of a Radical party had dis- 
appeared, it was time for me to stop the heavy expenditure of time 
and money which the Review cost me. It had to some extent 
answered my personal purpose as a vehicle for my opinions. It 
had enabled me to express in print much of my altered mode of 
thought, and to separate myself in a marked manner from the 
narrower Benthamism of my early writings. This was done by the 
general tone of all I wrote, including various purely literary articles, 
but especially by the two papers (reprinted in the Dissertations) 
which attempted a philosophical estimate of Bentham and of Cole- 
ridge. In the first of these, while doing full justice to the merits 
of Bentham, I pointed out what I thought the errors and deficiencies 
of his philosophy. The substance of this criticism I still think 
perfectly just; but I have sometimes doubted whether it was right 
to publish it at that time. I have often felt that Bentham's phi- 
losophy, as an instrument of progress, has been to some extent 
discredited before it had done its work, and that to lend a hand 
towards lowering its reputation was doing more harm than service 
to improvement. Now, however, when a counter-reaction appears to 
be setting in towards what is good in Benthamism, I can look with 
more satisfaction on this criticism of its defects, especially as I have 
myself balanced it by vindications of the fundamental principles of 
Bentham's philosophy, which are reprinted along with it in the same 
collection. In the essay on Coleridge I attempted to characterize the 
European reaction against the negative philosophy of the eighteenth 
century: and here, if the effect only of this one paper were to be 
considered, I might be thought to have erred by giving undue prom- 
inence to the favourable side, as I had done in the case of Bentham 
to the unfavourable. In both cases, the impetus with which I had 
detached myself from what was untenable in the doctrines of Ben- 
tham and of the eighteenth century, may have carried me, though in 
appearance rather than in reality, too far on the contrary side. But 
as far as relates to the article on Coleridge, my defence is, that I 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 137 

was writing for Radicals and Liberals, and it was my business to 
dwell most on that, in writers of a different school, from the knowl- 
edge of which, they might derive most improvement. 

The number of the Review which contained the paper on Cole- 
ridge, was the last which was published during my proprietorship. 
In the spring of 1840 I made over the Review to Mr. Hickson, who 
had been a frequent and very useful unpaid contributor under my 
management : only stipulating that the change should be marked by 
a resumption of the old name, that of Westminster Review. Under 
that name Mr. Hickson conducted it for ten years, on the plan of 
dividing among contributors only the net proceeds of the Review, 
giving his own labour as writer and editor gratuitously. Under the 
difficulty in obtaining writers, which arose from this low scale of 
payment, it is highly creditable to him that he was able to maintain, 
in some tolerable degree, the character of the Review as an organ 
of radicalism and progress. I did not cease altogether to write for 
the Review, but continued to send it occasional contributions, not, 
however, exclusively; for the greater circulation of the Edinburgh 
Review induced me from this time to offer articles to it also when 
I had anything to say for which it appeared to be a suitable vehicle. 
And the concluding volumes of "Democracy in America," having 
just then come out, I inaugurated myself as a contributor to the 
Edinburgh, by the article on that work, which heads the second 
volume of the "Dissertations." 



CHAPTER VII 
GENERAL VIEW OF THE REMAINDER OF MY LIFE 

1| ^NROM this time, what is worth relating of my life will come 
r^ into a very small compass; for I have no further mental 
M changes to tell of, but only, as I hope, a continued mental 
progress; which does not admit of a consecutive history, and the re- 
sults of which, if real, will be best found in my writings. I shall, 
therefore, greatly abridge the chronicle of my subsequent years. 

The first use I made of the leisure which I gained by disconnecting 
myself from the Review, was to finish the Logic. In July and 
August, 1838, 1 had found an interval in which to execute what was 
still undone of the original draft of the Third Book. In working 
out the logical theory of those laws of nature which are not laws of 
Causation, nor corollaries from such laws, I was led to recognise 
kinds as realities in nature, and not mere distinctions for convenience; 
a light which I had not obtained when the First Book was written, 
and which made it necessary for me to modify and enlarge several 
chapters of that Book. The Book on Language and Classification, 
and the chapter on the Classification of Fallacies, were drafted in 
the autumn of the same year; the remainder of the work, in the 
summer and autumn of 1840. From April following, to the end of 
1841, my spare time was devoted to a complete re-writing of the 
book from its commencement. It is in this way that all my books 
have been composed. They were always written at least twice over; 
a first draft of the entire work was completed to the very end of the 
subject, then the whole begun again de novo; but incorporating, 
in the second writing, all sentences and parts of sentences of the 
old draft, which appeared as suitable to my purpose as anything 
which I could write in lieu of them. I have found great advantages 
in this system of double redaction. It combines, better than any other 
mode of composition, the freshness and vigour of the first con- 
ception, with the superior precision and completeness resulting from 

138 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 139 

prolonged thought. In my own case, moreover, I have found that 
the patience necessary for a careful elaboration of the details of 
composition and expression, costs much less effort after the entire 
subject has been once gone through, and the substance of all that 
I find to say has in some manner, however imperfect, been got 
upon paper. The only thing which I am careful, in the first draft, 
to make as perfect as I am able, is the arrangement. If that is bad, 
the whole thread on which the ideas string themselves becomes 
twisted; thoughts placed in a wrong connexion are not expounded 
in a manner that suits the right, and a first draft with this origin^ 
vice is next to useless as a foundation for the final treatment. 

During the re-writing of the Logic, Dr. WhewelFs Philosophy of 
the Inductive Sciences made its appearance; a circumstance fortu- 
nate for me, as it gave me what I greatly desired, a full treatment 
of the subject by an antagonist, and enabled me to present my ideas 
with greater clearness and emphasis as well as fuller and more varied 
development, in defending them against definite objections, or con- 
fronting them distinctly with an opposite theory. The controversies 
with Dr. Whewell, as well as much matter derived from Comte, 
were first introduced into the book in the course of the re-writing. 

At the end of 1841, the book being ready for the press, I offered 
it to Murray, who kept it until too late for publication that season, 
and then refused it, for reasons which could just as well have been 
given at first. But I have had no cause to regret a rejection which 
led to my offering it to Mr. Parker, by whom it was published in 
the spring of 1843. My original expectations of success were ex- 
tremely limited. Archbishop Whately had, indeed, rehabilitated the 
name of Logic, and the study of the forms, rules, and fallacies of 
Ratiocination; and Dr. Whewell's writings had begun to excite an 
interest in the other part of my subject, the theory of Induction. A 
treatise, however, on a matter so abstract, could not be expected to 
be popular; it could only be a book for students, and students on 
such subjects were not only (at least in England) few, but addicted 
chiefly to the opposite school of metaphysics, the ontological and 
"innate principles" school. I therefore did not expect that the book 
would have many readers, or approvers; and looked for little 
practical effect from it, save that of keeping the tradition unbroken 



140 JOHN STUART MILL 

of what I thought a better philosophy. What hopes I had of excit- 
ing any immediate attention, were mainly grounded on the po- 
lemical propensities of Dr. Whewell; who, I thought, from observa- 
tion of his conduct in other cases, would probably do something 
to bring the book into notice, by replying, and that promptly, to 
the attack on his opinions. He did reply, but not till 1850, just in 
time for me to answer him in the third edition. How the book 
came to have, for a work of the kind, so much success, and what 
sort of persons compose the bulk of those who have bought, I will 
not venture to say read, it, I have never thoroughly understood. 
But taken in conjunction with the many proofs which have since 
been given of a revival of speculation, speculation too of a free 
kind, in many quarters, and above all (where at one time I should 
have least expected it) in the Universities, the fact becomes partially 
intelligible. I have never indulged the illusion that the book had 
made any considerable impression on philosophical opinion. The 
German, or a priori view of human knowledge, and of the knowing 
faculties, is likely for some time longer (though it may be hoped 
in a diminishing degree) to predominate among those who occupy 
themselves with such inquiries, both here and on the Continent. 
But the "System of Logic" supplies what was much wanted, a text- 
book of the opposite doctrine that which derives all knowledge 
from experience, and all moral and intellectual qualities principally 
from the direction given to the associations. I make as humble an 
estimate as anybody of what either an analysis of logical processes, 
or any possible canons of evidence, can do by themselves, towards 
guiding or rectifying the operations of the understanding. Com- 
bined with other requisites, I certainly do think them of great use; 
but whatever may be the practical value of a true philosophy of 
these matters, it is hardly possible to exaggerate the mischiefs of a 
false one. The notion that truths external to the mind may be 
known by intuition or consciousness, independently of observation 
and experience, is, I am persuaded, in these times, the great intel- 
lectual support of false doctrines and bad institutions. By the aid 
of this theory, every inveterate belief and every intense feeling, of 
which the origin is not remembered, is enabled to dispense with the 
obligation of justifying itself by reason, and is erected into its own 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 14! 

all-sufficient voucher and justification. There never was such an 
instrument devised for consecrating all deep-seated prejudices. And 
the chief strength of this false philosophy in morals, politics, and 
religion, lies in the appeal which it is accustomed to make to the 
evidence of mathematics and of the cognate branches of physical 
science. To expel it from these, is to drive it from its stronghold: 
and because this had never been effectually done, the intuitive school, 
even after what my father had written in his Analysis of the Mind, 
had in appearance, and as far as published writings were concerned, 
on the whole the best of the argument. In attempting to clear up the 
real nature of the evidence of mathematical and physical truths, 
the "System of Logic" met the intuitive philosophers on ground on 
which they had previously been deemed unassailable; and gave its 
own explanation, from experience and association, of that peculiar 
character of what are called necessary truths, which is adduced as 
proof that their evidence must come from a deeper source than 
experience. Whether this has been done effectually, is still sub 
judice; and even then, to deprive a mode of thought so strongly 
rooted in human prejudices and partialities, of its mere speculative 
support, goes but a very little way towards overcoming it; but 
though only a step, it is a quite indispensable one; for since, after 
all, prejudice can only be successfully combated by philosophy, no 
way can really be made against it permanently until it has been 
shown not to have philosophy on its side. 

Being now released from any active concern in temporary politics, 
and from any literary occupation involving personal communication 
with contributors and others, I was enabled to indulge the inclination, 
natural to thinking persons when the age of boyish vanity is once 
past, for limiting my own society to a very few persons. General 
society, as now carried on in England, is so insipid an affair, even to 
the persons who make it what it is, that it is kept up for any reason 
rather than the pleasure it affords. All serious discussion on matters 
on which opinions differ, being considered ill-bred, and the national 
deficiency in liveliness and sociability having prevented the culti- 
vation of the art of talking agreeably on trifles, in which the French 
of the last century so much excelled, the sole attraction of what is 
called society to those who are not at the top of the tree, is the hope 



142 JOHN STUART MILL 

of being aided to climb a little higher in it; while to those who are 
already at the top, it is chiefly a compliance with custom, and with 
the supposed requirements of their station. To a person of any but 
a very common order in thought or feeling, such society, unless he 
has personal objects to serve by it, must be supremely unattractive: 
and most people, in the present day, of any really high class of 
intellect, make their contact with it so slight, and at such long in- 
tervals, as to be almost considered as retiring from it altogether. 
Those persons of any mental superiority who do otherwise, are, 
almost without exception, greatly deteriorated by it. Not to mention 
loss of time, the tone of their feelings is lowered: they become less 
in earnest about those of their opinions respecting which they must 
remain silent in the society they frequent: they come to look upon 
their most elevated objects as unpractical, or, at least, too remote 
from realization to be more than a vision, or a theory; and if, more 
fortunate than most, they retain their higher principles unimpaired, 
yet with respect to the persons and affairs of their own day they 
insensibly adopt the modes of feeling and judgment in which they 
can hope for sympathy from the company they keep. A person of 
high intellect should never go into unintellectual society unless he 
can enter it as an apostle; yet he is the only person with high objects 
who can safely enter it at all. Persons even of intellectual aspira- 
tions had much better, if they can, make their habitual associates 
of at least their equals, and, as far as possible, their superiors, in 
knowledge, intellect, and elevation of sentiment. Moreover, if the 
character is formed, and the mind made up, on the few cardinal 
points of human opinion, agreement of conviction and feeling on 
these, has been felt in all times to be an essential requisite of any- 
thing worthy the name of friendship, in a really earnest mind. All 
these circumstances united, made the number very small of those 
whose society, and still more whose intimacy, I now voluntarily 
sought. 

Among these, the principal was the incomparable friend of whom 
I have already spoken. At this period she lived mostly with one 
young daughter, in a quiet part of the country, and only occasionally 
in town, with her first husband, Mr. Taylor. I visited her equally 
in both places; and was greatly indebted to the strength of char- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 143 

acter which enabled her to disregard the false interpretations liable 
to be put on the frequency of my visits to her while living generally 
apart from Mr. Taylor, and on our occasionally travelling together, 
though in all other respects our conduct during those years gave 
not the slightest ground for any other supposition than the true one, 
that our relation to each other at that time was one of strong affec- 
tion and confidential intimacy only. For though we did not con- 
sider the ordinances of society binding on a subject so entirely 
personal, we did feel bound that our conduct should be such as in 
no degree to bring discredit on her husband, nor therefore on herself. 
In this third period (as it may be termed) of my mental progress, 
which now went hand in hand with hers, my opinions gained 
equally in breadth and depth, I understood more things, and those 
which I had understood before, I now understood more thoroughly. 
I had now completely turned back from what there had been of 
excess in my reaction against Benthamism. I had, at the height of 
that reaction, certainly become much more indulgent to the common 
opinions of society and the world, and more willing to be content 
with seconding the superficial improvement which had begun to 
take place in those common opinions, than became one whose 
convictions, on so many points, differed fundamentally from them. 
I was much more inclined, than I can now approve, to put in abey- 
ance the more decidedly heretical part of my opinions, which I now 
look upon as almost the only ones, the assertion of which tends in 
any way to regenerate society. But in addition to this, our opinions 
were far more heretical than mine had been in the days of my 
most extreme Benthamism. In those days I had seen little further 
than the old school of political economists into the possibilities of 
fundamental improvement in social arrangements. Private property, 
as now understood, and inheritance, appeared to me, as to them, the 
dernier mot of legislation : and I looked no further than to mitigat- 
ing the inequalities consequent on these institutions, by getting rid 
of primogeniture and entails. The notion that it was possible to 
go further than this in removing the injustice for injustice it is, 
whether admitting of a complete remedy or not involved in the 
fact that some are born to riches and the vast majority to poverty, 
I then reckoned chimerical, and only hoped that by universal edu- 



144 JOHN STUART MILL 

cation, leading to voluntary restraint on population, the portion of 
the poor might be made more tolerable. In short, I was a democrat, 
but not the least of a Socialist. We were now much less democrats 
than I had been, because so long as education continues to be so 
wretchedly imperfect, we dreaded the ignorance and especially the 
selfishness and brutality of the mass: but our ideal of ultimate im- 
provement went far beyond Democracy, and would class us de- 
cidedly under the general designation of Socialists. While we 
repudiated with the greatest energy that tyranny of society over the 
individual which most Socialistic systems are supposed to involve, 
we yet looked forward to a time when society will no longer be 
divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they 
who do not work shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, 
but impartially to all; when the division of the produce of labour, 
instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the 
accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged 
principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be 
thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves 
strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusively 
their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to. The 
social problem of the future we considered to be, how to unite the 
greatest individual liberty of action, with a common ownership in 
the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in 
the benefits of combined labour. We had not the presumption to 
suppose that we could already foresee, by what precise form of 
institutions these objects could most effectually be attained, or at 
how near or how distant a period they would become practicable. 
We saw clearly that to render any such social transformation either 
possible or desirable, an equivalent change of character must take 
place both in the uncultivated herd who now compose the labour- 
ing masses, and in the immense majority of their employers. Both 
these classes must learn by practice to labour and combine for 
generous, or at all events for public and social purposes, and not, 
as hitherto, solely for narrowly interested ones. But the capacity 
to do this has always existed in mankind, and is not, nor is ever 
likely to be, extinct. Education, habit, and the cultivation of the 
sentiments, will make a commoo man dig or weave for his country, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 145 

as readily as fight for his country. True enough, it is only by slow 
degrees, and a system of culture prolonged through successive 
generations, that men in general can be brought up to this point. 
But the hindrance is not in the essential constitution of human 
nature. Interest in the common good is at present so weak a motive 
in the generality, not because it can never be otherwise, but because 
the mind is not accustomed to dwell on it as it dwells from morning 
till night on things which tend only to personal advantage. When 
called into activity, as only self-interest now is, by the daily course 
of life, and spurred from behind by the love of distinction and the 
fear of shame, it is capable of producing, even in common men, the 
most strenuous exertions as well as the most heroic sacrifices. The 
deep-rooted selfishness which forms the general character of the 
existing state of society, is so deeply rooted, only because the whole 
course of existing institutions tends to foster it; and modern in- 
stitutions in some respects more than ancient, since the occasion on 
which the individual is called on to do anything for the public 
without receiving its pay, are far less frequent in modern life, than 
in the smaller commonwealths of antiquity. These considerations 
did not make us overlook the folly of premature attempts to dispense 
with the inducement of private interest in social affairs, while no 
substitute for them has been or can be provided: but we regarded 
all existing institutions and social arrangements as being (in a 
phrase I once heard from Austin) "merely provisional," and we 
welcomed with the greatest pleasure and interest all socialistic ex- 
periments by select individuals (such as the Co-operative Societies), 
which, whether they succeeded or failed, could not but operate as a 
most useful education of those who took part in them, by culti- 
vating their capacity of acting upon motives pointing directly to 
the general good, or making them aware of the defects which render 
them and others incapable of doing so. 

In the "Principles of Political Economy," these opinions were 
promulgated, less clearly and fully in the first edition, rather more 
so in the second, and quite unequivocally in the third. The dif- 
ference arose partly from the change of times, the first edition 
having been written and sent to press before the French Revolution 
of 1848, after which the public mind became more open to the 



146 JOHN STUART MILL 

reception of novelties in opinion, and doctrines appeared moderate 
which would have been thought very startling a short time before. 
In the first edition the difficulties of socialism were stated so strongly, 
that the tone was on the whole that of opposition to it. In the year 
or two which followed, much time was given to the study of the 
best Socialistic writers on the Continent, and to meditation and 
discussion on the whole range of topics involved in the controversy : 
and the result was that most of what had been written on the subject 
in the first edition was cancelled, and replaced by arguments and 
reflections which represent a more advanced opinion. 

The Political Economy was far more rapidly executed than the 
Logic, or indeed than anything of importance which I had previously 
written. It was commenced in the autumn of 1845, and was ready 
for the press before the end of 1847. In this period of little more 
than two years there was an interval of six months during which 
the work was laid aside, while I was writing articles in the Morning 
Chronicle (which unexpectedly entered warmly into my purpose) 
urging the formation of peasant properties on the waste lands of 
Ireland. This was during the period of the Famine, the winter of 
1846-47, when the stern necessities of the time seemed to afford a 
chance of gaining attention for what appeared to me the only mode 
of combining relief to immediate destitution with permanent im- 
provement of the social and economical condition of the Irish people. 
But the idea was new and strange; there was no English precedent 
for such a proceeding: and the profound ignorance of English 
politicians and the English public concerning all social phenomena 
not generally met with in England (however common elsewhere,) 
made my endeavours an entire failure. Instead of a great operation 
on the waste lands, and the conversion of cottiers into proprietors, 
Parliament passed a Poor Law for maintaining them as paupers: 
and if the nation has not since found itself in inextricable difficulties 
from the joint operation of the old evils and the quack remedy, it 
is indebted for its deliverance to that most unexpected and surprising 
fact, the depopulation of Ireland, commenced by famine, and con- 
tinued by emigration. 

The rapid success of the Political Economy showed that the public 
wanted, and were prepared for such a book. Published early in 1848, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 147 

an edition of a thousand copies was sold in less than a year. Another 
similar edition was published in the spring of 1849; and a third, 
of 1250 copies, early in 1852. It was, from the first, continually cited 
and referred to as an authority, because it was not a book merely of 
abstract science, but also of application, and treated Political Econ- 
omy not as a thing by itself, but as a fragment of a greater whole; 
a branch of Social Philosophy, so interlinked with all the other 
branches, that its conclusions, even in its own peculiar province, 
are only true conditionally, subject to interference and counteraction 
from causes not directly within its scope: while to the character of 
a practical guide it has no pretension, apart from other classes of 
considerations. Political Economy, in truth, has never pretended to 
give advice to mankind with no lights but its own; though people 
who knew nothing but political economy (and therefore knew that 
ill) have taken upon themselves to advise, and could only do so 
by such lights as they had. But the numerous sentimental enemies 
of political economy, and its still more numerous interested enemies 
in sentimental guise, have been very successful in gaining belief 
for this among other unmerited imputations against it, and the 
"Principles" having, in spite of the freedom of many of its opinions, 
become for the present the most popular treatise on the subject, has 
helped to disarm the enemies of so important a study. The amount 
of its worth as an exposition of the science, and the value of 
the different applications which it suggests, others, of course must 
judge. 

For a considerable time after this, I published no work of magni- 
tude; though I still occasionally wrote in periodicals, and my corre- 
spondence (much of it with persons quite unknown to me), on 
subjects of public interest, swelled to a considerable bulk. During 
these years I wrote or commenced various Essays, for eventual 
publication, on some of the fundamental questions of human and 
social life, with regard to several of which I have already much 
exceeded the severity of the Horatian precept. I continued to watch 
with keen interest the progress of public events. But it was not, on 
the whole, very encouraging to me. The European reaction after 
1848, and the success of an unprincipled usurper in December, 1851, 
put an end, as it seemed, to all present hope of freedom or social 



148 JOHN STUART MILL 

improvement in France and the Continent. In England, I had 
seen and continued to see many of the opinions of my youth obtain 
general recognition, and many of the reforms in institutions, for 
which I had through life contended, either effected or in course of 
being so. But these changes had been attended with much less 
benefit to human well-being than I should formerly have antici- 
pated, because they had produced very little improvement in that 
which all amelioration in the lot of mankind depends on, their 
intellectual and moral state: and it might even be questioned if the 
various causes of deterioration which had been at work in the 
meanwhile, had not more than counterbalanced the tendencies to 
improvement. I had learnt from experience that many false opinions 
may be changed for true ones, without in the least altering the habits 
of mind of which false opinions are the result. The English public, 
for example, are quite as raw and undiscerning on subjects of 
political economy since the nation has been converted to free-trade, 
as they were before; and are still further from having acquired 
better habits of thought or feeling, or being in any way better forti- 
fied against error, on subjects of a more elevated character. For, 
though they have thrown off certain errors, the general discipline 
of their minds, intellectually and morally, is not altered. I am now 
convinced, that no great improvements in the lot of mankind are 
possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental con- 
stitution of their modes of thought. The old opinions in religion, 
morals, and politics, are so much discredited in the more intellectual 
minds as to have lost the greater part of their efficacy for good, while 
they have still life enough in them to be a powerful obstacle to 
the growing up of any better opinions on those subjects. When the 
philosophic minds of the world can no longer believe its religion, 
or can only believe it with modifications amounting to an essential 
change of its character, a transitional period commences, of weak 
convictions, paralysed intellects, and growing laxity of principle, 
which cannot terminate until a renovation has been effected in the 
basis of their belief leading to the evolution of some faith, whether 
religious or merely human, which they can really believe: and 
when things are in this state, all thinking or writing which does 
not tend to promote such a renovation, is of very little value beyond 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 149 

the moment. Since there was little in the apparent condition of 
the public mind, indicative of any tendency in this direction, my 
view of the immediate prospects of human improvement was not 
sanguine. More recently a spirit of free speculation has sprung up, 
giving a more encouraging prospect of the gradual mental emanci- 
pation of England; and concurring with the renewal under better 
auspices, of the movement for political freedom in the rest of Europe, 
has given to the present condition of human affairs a more hopeful 
aspect. 1 

Between the time of which I have now spoken, and the present, 
took place the most important events of my private life. The first 
of these was my marriage, in April, 1851, to the lady whose in- 
comparable worth had made her friendship the greatest source to 
me both of happiness and of improvement during many years in 
which we never expected to be in any closer relation to one another. 
Ardently as I should have aspired to this complete union of our 
lives at any time in the course of my existence at which it had been 
practicable, I, as much as my wife, would far rather have foregone 
that privilege for ever, than have owed it to the premature death 
of one for whom I had the sincerest respect, and she the strongest 
affection. That event, however, having taken place in July, 1849, 
it was granted to me to derive from that evil my own greatest good, 
by adding to the partnership of thought, feeling, and writing which 
had long existed, a partnership of our entire existence. For seven 
and a half years that blessing was mine; for seven and a half only! 
I can say nothing which could describe, even in the faintest manner, 
what that loss was and is. But because I know that she would 
have wished it, I endeavour to make the best of what life I have left, 
and to work on for her purposes with such diminished strength as 
can be derived from thoughts of her, and communion with her 
memory. 

When two persons have their thoughts and speculations com- 
pletely in common; when all subjects of intellectual or moral in- 
terest are discussed between them in daily life, and probed to much 
greater depths than are usually or conveniently sounded in writings 
intended for general readers; when they set out from the same 

1 Written about 1861. 



I5O JOHN STUART MILL 

principles, and arrive at their conclusions by processes pursued 
jointly, it is of little consequence in respect to the question of 
originality, which of them holds the pen; the one who contributes 
least to the composition may contribute most to the thought; the 
writings which result are the joint product of both, and it must often 
be impossible to disentangle their respective parts, and affirm that 
this belongs to one and that to the other. In this wide sense, not 
only during the years of our married life, but during many of the 
years of confidential friendship which preceded, all my published 
writings were as much her work as mine; her share in them con- 
stantly increasing as years advanced. But in certain cases, what 
belongs to her can be distinguished, and specially identified. Over 
and above the general influence which her mind had over mine, the 
most valuable ideas and features in these joint productions those 
which have been most fruitful of important results, and have con- 
tributed most to the success and reputation of the works themselves 
originated with her, were emanations from her mind, my part in 
them being no greater than in any of the thoughts which I found 
in previous writers, and made my own only by incorporating them 
with my own system of thought. During the greater part of my 
literary life I have performed the office in relation to her, which 
from a rather early period I had considered as the most useful part 
that I was qualified to take in the domain of thought, that of an 
interpreter of original thinkers, and mediator between them and 
the public; for I had always a humble opinion of my own powers 
as an original thinker, except in abstract science (logic, metaphysics, 
and the theoretic principles of political economy and politics), but 
thought myself much superior to most of my contemporaries in 
willingness and ability to learn from everybody; as I found hardly 
any one who made such a point of examining what was said in 
defence of all opinions, however new or however old, in the con- 
viction that even if they were errors there might be a substratum of 
truth underneath them, and that in any case the discovery of what 
it was that made them plausible, would be a benefit to truth. I had, 
in consequence, marked this out as a sphere of usefulness in which 
I was under a special obligation to make myself active: the more 
so, as the acquaintance I had formed with the ideas of the Cole- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 15 1 

ridgians, of the German thinkers, and of Carlyle, all of them fiercely 
opposed to the mode of thought in which I had been brought up, 
had convinced me that along with much error they possessed much 
truth, which was veiled from minds otherwise capable of receiving 
it by the transcendental and mystical phraseology in which they 
were accustomed to shut it up, and from which they neither cared, 
nor knew how, to disengage it; and I did not despair of separating 
the truth from the error, and exposing it in terms which would 
be intelligible and not repulsive to those on my own side in phi- 
losophy. Thus prepared it will easily be believed that when I came 
into close intellectual communion with a person of the most eminent 
faculties, whose genius, as it grew and unfolded itself in thought, 
continually struck out truths far in advance of me, but in which I 
could not, as I had done in those others, detect any mixture of error, 
the greatest part of my mental growth consisted in the assimilation 
of those truths, and the most valuable part of my intellectual work 
was in building the bridges and clearing the paths which connected 
them with my general system of thought. 2 

The first of my books in which her share was conspicuous was 
the "Principles of Political Economy." The "System of Logic" owed 

2 The steps in my mental growth for which I was indebted to her were far from 
being those which a person wholly uninformed on the subject would probably sus- 
pect. It might be supposed, for instance, that my strong convictions on the com- 
plete equality in all legal, political, social and domestic relations, which ought to 
exist between men and women, may have been adopted or learnt from her. This was 
so far from being the fact, that those convictions were among the earliest results 
of the application of my mind to political subjects, and the strength with which I 
held them was, as I believe, more than anything else, the originating cause of the 
interest she felt in me. What is true is, that until I knew her, the opinion was in my 
mind, little more than an abstract principle. I saw no more reason why women 
should be held in legal subjection to other people, than why men should. I was certain 
that their interests required fully as much protection as those of men, and were 
quite as little likely to obtain it without an equal voice in making the laws by which 
they were to be bound. But that perception of the vast practical bearings of women's 
disabilities which found expression in the book on the "Subjection of Women" was 
acquired mainly through her teaching. But for her rare knowledge of human nature 
and comprehension of moral and social influences, though I should doubtless have 
held my present opinions, I should have had a very insufficient perception of the 
mode in which the consequences of the inferior position of women intertwine them- 
selves with all the evils of existing society and with all the difficulties of human im- 
provement. I am indeed painfully conscious of how much of her best thoughts on the 
subject I have failed to reproduce, and how greatly that little treatise falls short of 
what would have been if she had put on paper her entire mind on this question, 
or had lived to revise and improve, as she certainly would have done, my imperfect 
statement of the case. 



152 JOHN STUART MILL 

little to her except in the minuter matters o composition, in which 
respect my writings, both great and small, have largely benefited 
by her accurate and clear-sighted criticism. 3 The chapter of the 
Political Economy which has had a greater influence on opinion 
than all the rest, that on "The Probable Future of the Labouring 
Classes," is entirely due to her: in the first draft of the book, that 
chapter did not exist. She pointed out the need of such a chapter, 
and the extreme imperfection of the book without it: she was the 
cause of my writing it; and the more general part of the chapter, 
the statement and discussion of the two opposite theories respecting 
the proper condition of the labouring classes, was wholly an ex- 
position of her thoughts, often in words taken from her own lips. 
The purely scientific part of the Political Economy I did not learn 
from her; but it was chiefly her influence that gave to the book 
that general tone by which it is distinguished from all previous 
expositions of Political Economy that had any pretension to being 
scientific, and which has made it so useful in conciliating minds 
which those previous expositions had repelled. This tone consisted 
chiefly in making the proper distinction between the laws of the 
Production of Wealth, which are real laws of nature, dependent on 
the properties of objects, and the modes of its Distribution, which, 
subject to certain conditions, depend on human will. The common 
run of political economists confuse these together, under the resigna- 
tion of economic laws, which they deem incapable of being defeated 
or modified by human effort; ascribing the same necessity to things 

3 The only person from whom I received any direct assistance in the preparation 
of the System of Logic was Mr. Bain, since so justly celebrated for his philosophical 
writings. He went carefully through the manuscript before it was sent to press, and 
enriched it with a great number of additional examples and illustrations from 
science; many of which, as well as some detached remarks of his own in confirmation 
of my logical views, I inserted nearly in his own words. 

My obligations to Comte were only to his writings to the part which had then 
been published of his "Systeme de Philosophic Positive:" and, as has been seen 
from what I have already said in this narrative, the amount of these obligations is 
far less than has sometimes been asserted. The first volume, which contains all the 
fundamental doctrines of the book, was substantially complete before I had seen 
Comte's treatise. I derived from him many valuable thoughts, conspicuously in 
the chapter on Hypotheses and in the view taken of the logic of Algebra: but 
it is only in the concluding Book, on the Logic of the Moral Sciences, that I owe to 
him any radical improvement in my conception of the application of logical method. 
This improvement I have stated and characterized in a former part of the present 
Memoir. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 153 

dependent on the unchangeable conditions of our earthly existence, 
and to those which, being but the necessary consequences of 
particular social arrangements, are merely co-extensive with these: 
given certain institutions and customs, wages, profits, and rent will 
be determined by certain causes; but this class of political economists 
drop the indispensable presupposition, and argue that these causes 
must, by an inherent necessity against which no human means can 
avail, determine the shares which fall, in the division of the produce, 
to labourers, capitalists, and landlords. The "Principles of Political 
Economy" yielded to none of its predecessors in aiming at the 
scientific appreciation of the action of these causes, under the con- 
ditions which they presuppose; but it set the example of not treating 
those conditions as final. The economic generalizations which 
depend, not on necessities of nature but on those combined with the 
existing arrangements of society, it deals with only as provisional, 
and as liable to be much altered by the progress of social improve- 
ment. I had indeed partially learnt this view of things from the 
thoughts awakened in me by the speculations of the St. Simonians; 
but it was made a living principle pervading and animating the 
book by my wife's promptings. This example illustrates well the 
general character of what she contributed to my writings. What 
was abstract and purely scientific was generally mine; the properly 
human element came from her : in all that concerned the application 
of philosophy to the exigencies of human society and progress, I 
was her pupil, alike in boldness of speculation and cautiousness of 
practical judgment. For, on the one hand, she was much more 
courageous and far-sighted than, without her, I should have been, 
in anticipations of an order of things to come, in which many of 
the limited generalizations now so often confounded with universal 
principles will cease to be applicable. Those parts of my writings, 
and especially of the Political Economy, which contemplate possi- 
bilities in the future such as, when affirmed by socialists, have in 
general been fiercely denied by political economists, would, but for 
her, either have been absent, or the suggestions would have been 
made much more timidly and in a more qualified form. But while 
she thus rendered me bolder in speculation on human afTairs, her 
practical turn of mind, and her almost unerring estimate of practical 



154 JOHN STUART MILL 

obstacles, repressed in me all tendencies that were really visionary. 
Her mind invested all ideas in a concrete shape, and formed to itself 
a conception of how they would actually work: and her knowledge 
of the existing feelings and conduct of mankind was so seldom at 
fault, that the weak point in any unworkable suggestion seldom 
escaped her. 4 

During the years which intervened between the commencement 
of my married life and the catastrophe which closed it, the principal 
occurrences of my outward existence (unless I count as such a first 
attack of the family disease, and a consequent journey of more 
than six months for the recovery of health, in Italy, Sicily, and 
Greece) had reference to my position in the India House. In 1856 
I was promoted to the rank of chief of the office in which I had 
served for upwards of thirty-three years. The appointment, that of 
Examiner of India Correspondence, was the highest, next to that 
of Secretary, in the East India Company's home service, involving 
the general superintendence of all the correspondence with the 
Indian Governments, except the military, naval, and financial. I 
held this office as long as it continued to exist, being a little more 
than two years; after which it pleased Parliament, in other words, 
Lord Palmerston, to put an end to the East India Company as a 
branch of the Government of India under the Crown, and convert 
the administration of that country into a thing to be scrambled 
for by the second and third class of English parliamentary politi- 
cians. I was the chief manager of the resistance which the Com- 
pany made to their own political extinction, and to the letters 
and petitions I wrote for them, and the concluding chapter of 
my treatise on Representative Government, I must refer for my 
opinions on the folly and mischief of this ill-considered change. 
Personally I considered myself a gainer by it, as I had given enough 
of my life to India, and was not unwilling to retire on the liberal com- 
pensation granted. After the change was consummated, Lord Stan- 
ley, the First Secretary of State for India, made me the honourable 
offer of a seat in the Council, and the proposal was subsequently 

4 A few dedicatory lines acknowledging what the book owed to her, were prefixed 
to some of the presentation copies of the Political Economy on its first publication. 
Her dislike of publicity alone prevented their insertion in the other copies of the 
work. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 155 

renewed by the Council itself, on the first occasion of its having to 
supply a vacancy in its own body. But the conditions of Indian 
Government under the new system made me anticipate nothing 
but useless vexation and waste of effort from any participation in 
it: and nothing that has since happened has had any tendency to 
make me regret my refusal. 

During the two years which immediately preceded the cessation 
of my official life, my wife and I were working together at the 
"Liberty." I had first planned and written it as a short essay in 1854. 
It was in mounting the steps of the Capitol, in January, 1855, that the 
thought first arose of converting it into a volume. None of my 
writings have been either so carefully composed, or so sedulously 
corrected as this. After it had been written as usual twice over, we 
kept it by us, bringing it out from time to time, and going through 
it de novo, reading, weighing, and criticising every sentence. Its 
final revision was to have been a work of the winter of 1858-9, the 
first after my retirement, which we had arranged to pass in the 
South of Europe. That hope and every other were frustrated by the 
most unexpected and bitter calamity of her death at Avignon, on 
our way to Montpellier, from a sudden attack of pulmonary con- 
gestion. 

Since then I have sought for such alleviation as my state admitted 
of, by the mode of life which most enabled me to feel her still near 
me. I bought a cottage as close as possible to the place where she 
is buried, and there her daughter (my fellow-sufferer and now my 
chief comfort) and I, live constantly during a great portion of the 
year. My objects in life are solely those which were hers; my pursuits 
and occupations those in which she shared, or sympathized, and 
which are indissolubly associated with her. Her memory is to me 
a religion, and her approbation the standard by which, summing 
up as it does all worthiness, I endeavour to regulate my life. 5 

After my irreparable loss, one of my earliest cares was to print 
and publish the treatise, so much of which was the work of her 
whom I had lost, and consecrate it to her memory. I have made no 
alteration or addition to it, nor shall I ever. Though it wants the 

5 What precedes was written or revised previous to, or during the year 1861. What 
follows was written in 1870. 



156 JOHN STUART MILL 

last touch of her hand, no substitute for that touch shall ever be 
attempted by mine. 

The "Liberty" was more directly and literally our joint production 
than anything else which bears my name, for there was not a 
sentence of it which was not several times gone through by us 
together, turned over in many ways, and carefully weeded of any 
faults, either in thought or expression, that we detected in it. It is in 
consequence of this that, although it never underwent her final 
revision, it far surpasses, as a mere specimen of composition, anything 
which has proceeded from me either before or since. With regard 
to the thoughts, it is difficult to identify any particular part or 
element as being more hers than all the rest. The whole mode of 
thinking of which the book was the expression, was emphatically 
hers. But I also was so thoroughly imbued with it, that the same 
thoughts naturally occurred to us both. That I was thus penetrated 
with it, however, I owe in a great degree to her. There was a mo- 
ment in my mental progress when I might easily have fallen into a 
tendency towards over-government, both social and political; as 
there was also a moment when, by reaction from a contrary excess, 
I might have become a less thorough radical and democrat than I 
am. In both these points, as in many others, she benefited me as 
much by keeping me right where I was right, as by leading me to 
new truths, and ridding me of errors. My great readiness and eager- 
ness to learn from everybody, and to make room in my opinions for 
every new acquisition by adjusting the old and the new to one 
another, might, but for her steadying influence, have seduced me 
into modifying my early opinions too much. She was in nothing 
more valuable to my mental development than by her just measure 
of the relative importance of different considerations, which often 
protected me from allowing to truths I had only recently learnt to 
see, a more important place in my thoughts than was properly their 
due. 

The "Liberty" is likely to survive longer than anything else that 
I have written (with the possible exception of the "Logic"), be- 
cause the conjunction of her mind with mine has rendered it a kind 
of philosophic text-book of a single truth, which the changes pro- 
gressively taking place in modern society tend to bring out into ever 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 157 

stronger relief: the importance, to man and society, of a large va- 
riety in types of character, and of giving full freedom to human 
nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions. 
Nothing can better show how deep are the foundations of this 
truth, than the great impression made by the exposition of it at a 
time which, to superficial observation, did not seem to stand much 
in need of such a lesson. The fears we expressed, lest the inevitable 
growth of social equality and of the government of public opinion, 
should impose on mankind an oppressive yoke of uniformity in 
opinion and practice, might easily have appeared chimerical to those 
who looked more at present facts than at tendencies; for the grad- 
ual revolution that is taking place in society and institutions has, 
thus far, been decidedly favourable to the development of new opin- 
ions, and has procured for them a much more unprejudiced hearing 
than they previously met with. But this is a feature belonging to 
periods of transition, when old notions and feelings have been unset- 
tled, and no new doctrines have yet succeeded to their ascendancy. 
At such times people of any mental activity, having given up their 
old beliefs, and not feeling quite sure that those they still retain 
can stand unmodified, listen eagerly to new opinions. But this state 
of things is necessarily transitory: some particular body of doctrine 
in time rallies the majority round it, organizes social institutions 
and modes of action conformably to itself, education impresses this 
new creed upon the new generations without the mental processes 
that have led to it, and by degrees it acquires the very same power 
of compression, so long exercised by the creeds of which it had taken 
the place. Whether this noxious power will be exercised, depends 
on whether mankind have by that time become aware that it cannot 
be exercised without stunting and dwarfing human nature. It is 
then that the teachings of the "Liberty" will have their greatest 
value. And it is to be feared that they will retain that value a long 
time. 

As regards originality, it has of course no other than that which 
every thoughtful mind gives to its own mode of conceiving and 
expressing truths which are common property. The leading thought 
of the book is one which though in many ages confined to insulated 
thinkers, mankind have probably at no time since the beginning 



158 JOHN STUART MILL 

of civilization been entirely without. To speak only of the last few 
generations, it is distinctly contained in the vein of important 
thought respecting education and culture, spread through the Euro- 
pean mind by the labours and genius of Pestalozzi. The unqualified 
championship of it by Wilhelm von Humboldt is referred to in the 
book; but he by no means stood alone in his own country. During 
the early part of the present century the doctrine of the rights of 
individuality, and the claim of the moral nature to develop itself in 
its own way, was pushed by a whole school of German authors even 
to exaggeration; and the writings of Goethe, the most celebrated 
of all German authors, though not belonging to that or to any other 
school, are penetrated throughout by views of morals and of conduct 
in life, often in my opinion not defensible, but which are inces- 
santly seeking whatever defence they admit of in the theory of the 
right and duty of self-development. In our own country, before 
the book "On Liberty" was written, the doctrine of Individuality 
had been enthusiastically asserted, in a style of vigorous declamation 
sometimes reminding one of Fichte, by Mr. William Maccall, in 
a series of writings of which the most elaborate is entitled "Ele- 
ments of Individualism :" and a remarkable American, Mr. Warren, 
had formed a System of Society, on the foundation of the "Sov- 
ereignty of the Individual," had obtained a number of followers, and 
had actually commenced the formation of a Village Community 
(whether it now exists I know not), which, though bearing a super- 
ficial resemblance to some of the projects of Socialists, is diamet- 
rically opposite to them in principle, since it recognises no authority 
whatever in Society over the individual, except to enforce equal 
freedom of development for all individualities. As the book which 
bears my name claimed no originality for any of its doctrines, and 
was not intended to write their history, the only author who had 
preceded me in their assertion, of whom I thought it appropriate to 
say anything, was Humboldt, who furnished the motto to the work; 
although in one passage I borrowed from the Warrenites their 
phrase, the sovereignty of the individual. It is hardly necessary here 
to remark that there are abundant differences in detail, between 
the conception of the doctrine by any of the predecessors I have 
mentioned, and that set forth in the book. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 159 

The political circumstances of the time induced me, shortly after, 
to complete and publish a pamphlet ("Thoughts on Parliamentary 
Reform"), part of which had been written some years previously, 
on the occasion of one of the abortive Reform Bills, and had at the 
time been approved and revised by her. Its principal features were, 
hostility to the Ballot (a change of opinion in both of us, in which 
she rather preceded me), and a claim of representation for minori- 
ties; not, however, at that time going beyond the cumulative vote 
proposed by Mr. Garth Marshall. In finishing the pamphlet for pub- 
lication, with a view to the discussions on the Reform Bill of Lord 
Derby's and Mr. Disraeli's government in 1859, I added a third 
feature, a plurality of votes to be given, not to property, but to 
proved superiority of education. This recommended itself to me as a 
means of reconciling the irresistible claim of every man or woman 
to be consulted, and to be allowed a voice, in the regulation of 
affairs which vitally concern them, with the superiority of weight 
justly due to opinions grounded on superiority of knowledge. 
The suggestion, however, was one which I had never discussed 
with my almost infallible counsellor, and I have no evidence 
that she would have concurred in it. As far as I have been able to 
observe, it has found favour with nobody; all who desire any sort 
of inequality in the electoral vote, desiring it in favour of property 
and not of intelligence or knowledge. If it ever overcomes the 
strong feeling which exists against it, this will only be after the 
establishment of a systematic National Education by which the 
various grades of politically valuable acquirement may be accurately 
defined and authenticated. Without this it will always remain 
liable to strong, possibly conclusive, objections; and with this, it 
would perhaps not be needed. 

It was soon after the publication of "Thoughts on Parliamentary 
Reform," that I became acquainted with Mr. Hare's admirable 
system of Personal Representation, which, in its present shape, was 
then for the first time published. I saw in this great practical and 
philosophical idea, the greatest improvement of which the system 
of representative government is susceptible; an improvement which, 
in the most felicitous manner, exactly meets and cures the grand, 
and what before seemed the inherent, defect of the representative 



l6o JOHN STUART MILL 

system; that of giving to a numerical majority all power, instead of 
only a power proportional to its numbers, and enabling the strongest 
party to exclude all weaker parties from making their opinions 
heard in the assembly of the nation, except through such opportunity 
as may be given to them by the accidentally unequal distribution of 
opinions in different localities. To these great evils nothing more 
than very imperfect palliations had seemed possible; but Mr. Hare's 
system affords a radical cure. This great discovery, for it is no less, 
in the political art, inspired me, as I believe it has inspired all 
thoughtful persons who have adopted it, with new and more san- 
guine hopes respecting the prospects of human society; by freeing 
the form of political institutions towards which the whole civilized 
world is manifestly and irresistibly tending, from the chief part of 
what seemed to qualify, or render doubtful, its ultimate benefits. 
Minorities, so long as they remain minorities, are, and ought to be, 
outvoted; but under arrangements which enable any assemblage of 
voters, amounting to a certain number, to place in the legislature a 
representative of its own choice, minorities cannot be suppressed. 
Independent opinions will force their way into the council of the 
nation and make themselves heard there, a thing which often cannot 
happen in the existing forms of representative democracy; and the 
legislature, instead of being weeded of individual peculiarities 
and entirely made up of men who simply represent the creed of 
great political or religious parties, will comprise a large proportion 
of the most eminent individual minds in the country, placed there, 
without reference to party, by voters who appreciate their indi- 
vidual eminence. I can understand that persons, otherwise intelli- 
gent, should, for want of sufficient examination, be repelled from 
Mr. Hare's plan by what they think the complex nature of its ma- 
chinery. But any one who does not feel the want which the scheme 
is intended to supply; any one who throws it over as a mere theo- 
retical subtlety or crotchet, tending to no valuable purpose, and un- 
worthy of the attention of practical men, may be pronounced an 
incompetent statesman, unequal to the politics of the future. I 
mean, unless he is a minister or aspires to become one: for we are 
quite accustomed to a minister continuing to profess unqualified 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY l6l 

hostility to an improvement almost to the very day when his con- 
science, or his interest, induces him to take it up as a public measure, 
and carry it. 

Had I met with Mr. Hare's system before the publication of my 
pamphlet, I should have given an account of it there. Not having 
done so, I wrote an article in Fraser's Magazine (reprinted in my 
miscellaneous writings) principally for that purpose, though I in- 
cluded in it, along with Mr. Hare's book, a review of two other 
productions on the question of the day; one of them a pamphlet 
by my early friend, Mr. John Austin, who had in his old age become 
an enemy to all further Parliamentary reform; the other an able 
and vigorous, though partially erroneous work by Mr. Lorimer. 

In the course of the same summer I fulfilled a duty particularly 
incumbent upon me, that of helping (by an article in the Edinburgh 
Review) to make known Mr. Bain's profound treatise on the Mind, 
just then completed by the publication of its second volume. And 
I carried through the press a selection of my minor writings, forming 
the first two volumes of "Dissertations and Discussions." The selec- 
tion had been made during my wife's lifetime, but the revision, 
in concert with her, with a view to republication, had been barely 
commenced; and when I had no longer the guidance of her judg- 
ment I despaired of pursuing it further, and republished the papers 
as they were, with the exception of striking out such passages as 
were no longer in accordance with my opinions. My literary work 
of the year was terminated with an essay in Fraser's Magazine, 
(afterwards republished in the third volume of "Dissertations and 
Discussions,") entitled "A Few Words on Non-intervention." I 
was prompted to write this paper by a desire, while vindicating 
England from the imputations commonly brought against her on 
the Continent, of a peculiar selfishness in matters of foreign policy, 
to warn Englishmen of the colour given to this imputation by the 
low tone in which English statesmen are accustomed to speak of 
English policy as concerned only with English interests, and by the 
conduct of Lord Palmerston at that particular time in opposing the 
Suez Canal: and I took the opportunity of expressing ideas which 
had long been in my mind (some of them generated by my Indian 



1 62 JOHN STUART MILL 

experience, and others by the international questions which then 
greatly occupied the European public), respecting the true princi- 
ples of international morality, and the legitimate modifications made 
in it by difference of times and circumstances; a subject I had al- 
ready, to some extent, discussed in the vindication of the French 
Provisional Government of 1848 against the attacks of Lord Broug- 
ham and others, which I published at the time in the Westminster 
Review, and which is reprinted in the "Dissertations." 

I had now settled, as I believed, for the remainder of my existence 
into a purely literary life: if that can be called literary which con- 
tinued to be occupied in a pre-eminent degree with politics, and not 
merely with theoretical, but practical politics, although a great part 
of the year was spent at a distance of many hundred miles from 
the chief seat of the politics of my own country, to which, and 
primarily for which, I wrote. But, in truth, the modern facilities 
of communication have not only removed all the disadvantages, to 
a political writer in tolerably easy circumstances, of distance from 
the scene of political action, but have converted them into advan- 
tages. The immediate and regular receipt of newspapers and peri- 
odicals keeps him au courant of even the most temporary politics, 
and gives him a much more correct view of the state and progress 
of opinion than he could acquire by personal contact with indi- 
viduals: for every one's social intercourse is more or less limited to 
particular sets or classes, whose impressions and no others reach him 
through that channel; and experience has taught me that those who 
give their time to the absorbing claims of what is called society, not 
having leisure to keep up a large acquaintance with the organs of 
opinion, remain much more ignorant of the general state either of 
the public mind, or of the active and instructed part of it, than a 
recluse who reads the newspapers need be. There are, no doubt, 
disadvantages in too long a separation from one's country in not 
occasionally renewing one's impressions of the light in which men 
and things appear when seen from a position in the midst of them; 
but the deliberate judgment formed at a distance, and undisturbed 
by inequalities of perspective, is the most to be depended on, even 
for application to practice. Alternating between the two positions, 
I combined the advantages of both. And, though the inspirer of my 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 163 

best thoughts was no longer with me, I was not alone: she had left 

a daughter my step-daughter, 
******* 

* * whose ever growing and 

ripening talents from that day to this have been devoted to the same 

great purposes * 

## * # * # * * # 

Surely no one ever before was so fortunate, as, after such a loss as 

mine, to draw another prize in the lottery of life.* * * 

******* 

Whoever, either now or hereafter, may think 

of me and of the work I have done, must never forget that it is the 
product not of one intellect and conscience, but of three * * 



The work of the years 1860 and 1861 consisted chiefly of two 
treatises, only one of which was intended for immediate publication. 
This was the "Considerations on Representative Government;" a 
connected exposition of what, by the thoughts of many years, I had 
come to regard as the best form of a popular constitution. Along 
with as much of the general theory of government as is necessary 
to support this particular portion of its practice, the volume contains 
my matured views of the principal questions which occupy the 
present age, within the province of purely organic institutions, and 
raises, by anticipation, some other questions to which growing neces- 
sities will sooner or later compel the attention both of theoretical 
and of practical politicians. The chief of these last, is the distinc- 
tion between the function of making laws, for which a numerous 
popular assembly is radically unfit, and that of getting good laws 
made, which is its proper duty and cannot be satisfactorily fulfilled 
by any other authority: and the consequent need of a Legislative 
Commission, as a permanent part of the constitution of a free 
country; consisting of a small number of highly trained political 
minds, on whom, when Parliament has determined that a law shall 
be made, the task of making it should be devolved: Parliament 
retaining the power of passing or rejecting the bill when drawn 
up, but not of altering it otherwise than by sending proposed amend- 



164 JOHN STUART MILL 

ments to be dealt with by the Commission. The question here 
raised respecting the most important of all public functions, that 
of legislation, is a particular case of the great problem of modern 
political organization, stated, I believe, for the first time in its 
full extent by Bentham, though in my opinion not always satis- 
factorily resolved by him; the combination of complete popular 
control over public affairs, with the greatest attainable perfection of 
skilled agency. 

The other treatise written at this time is the one which was pub- 
lished some years later 6 under the title of "The Subjection of 
Women." It was written * * * * 

that there might, in any event, be in exist- 
ence a written exposition of my opinions on that great question, 
as full and conclusive as I could make it. The intention was to keep 
this among other unpublished papers, improving it from time to 
time if I was able, and to publish it at the time when it should seem 

likely to be most useful. As ultimately published * * * 

********* 

in what was of my own composition, all that is most striking and 
profound belongs to my wife; coming from the fund of thought 
which had been made common to us both, by our innumerable 
conversations and discussions on a topic which filled so large a place 
in our minds. 

Soon after this time I took from their repository a portion of the 
unpublished papers which I had written during the last years of 
our married life, and shaped them, with some additional matter, 
into the little work entitled "Utilitarianism;" which was first pub- 
lished, in three parts, in successive numbers of Fraser's Magazine, 
and afterwards reprinted in a volume. 

Before this, however, the state of public affairs had become ex- 
tremely critical, by the commencement of the American civil war. 
My strongest feelings were engaged in this struggle, which, I felt 
from the beginning, was destined to be a turning point, for good 
or evil, of the course of human affairs for an indefinite duration. 
Having been a deeply interested observer of the slavery quarrel in 
America, during the many years that preceded the open breach, I 

6 In 1869. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 165 

knew that it was in all its stages an aggressive enterprise of the slave- 
owners to extend the territory of slavery; under the combined influ- 
ences of pecuniary interest, domineering temper, and the fanaticism 
of a class for its class privileges, influences so fully and powerfully 
depicted in the admirable work of my friend Professor Cairnes, 
"The Slave Power." Their success, if they succeeded, would be a 
victory of the powers of evil which would give courage to the ene- 
mies of progress and damp the spirits of its friends all over the civi- 
lized world, while it would create a formidable military power, 
grounded on the worst and most anti-social form of the tyranny of 
men over men, and, by destroying for a long time the prestige of 
the great democratic republic, would give to all the privileged classes 
of Europe a false confidence, probably only to be extinguished in 
blood. On the other hand, if the spirit of the North was sufficiently 
roused to carry the war to a successful termination, and if that 
termination did not come too soon and too easily, I foresaw, from 
the laws of human nature, and the experience of revolutions, that 
when it did come it would in all probability be thorough: that the 
bulk of the Northern population, whose conscience had as yet been 
awakened only to the point of resisting the further extension of 
slavery, but whose fidelity to the Constitution of the United States 
made them disapprove of any attempt by the Federal Government 
to interfere with slavery in the States where it already existed, would 
acquire feelings of another kind when the Constitution had been 
shaken off by armed rebellion, would determine to have done for 
ever with the accursed thing, and would join their banner with that 
of the noble body of Abolitionists, of whom Garrison was the 
courageous and single-minded apostle, Wendell Phillips the eloquent 
orator, and John Brown the voluntary martyr. 7 Then, too, the whole 
mind of the United States would be let loose from its bonds, no 
longer corrupted by the supposed necessity of apologizing to for- 
eigners for the most flagrant of all possible violations of the free 
principles of their Constitution; while the tendency of a fixed state 
of society to stereotype a set of national opinions would be at least 
temporarily checked, and the national mind would become more 

7 The saying of this true hero, after his capture, that he was worth more for 
hanging than for any other purpose, reminds one, by its combination of wit, wisdom, 
and self-devotion, of Sir Thomas More. 



1 66 JOHN STUART MILL 

open to the recognition of whatever was bad in either the institutions 
or the customs of the people. These hopes, so far as related to slavery, 
have been completely, and in other respects are in course of being 
progressively realized. Foreseeing from the first this double set of 
consequences from the success or failure of the rebellion, it may 
be imagined with what feelings I contemplated the rush of nearly 
the whole upper and middle classes of my own country, even those 
who passed for Liberals, into a furious pro-Southern partisanship: 
the working classes, and some of the literary and scientific men, 
being almost the sole exceptions to the general frenzy. I never before 
felt so keenly how little permanent improvement had reached the 
minds of our influential classes, and of what small value were the 
Liberal opinions they had got into the habit of professing. None 
of the Continental Liberals committed the same frightful mistake. 
But the generation which had extorted negro emancipation from our 
West India planters had passed away; another had succeeded which 
had not learnt by many years of discussion and exposure to feel 
strongly the enormities of slavery; and the inattention habitual with 
Englishmen to whatever is going on in the world outside their 
own island, made them profoundly ignorant of all the antecedents 
of the struggle, insomuch that it was not generally believed in Eng- 
land, for the first year or two of the war, that the quarrel was one 
of slavery. There were men of high principle and unquestionable 
liberality of opinion, who thought it a dispute about tariflfs, or assim- 
ilated it to the cases in which they were accustomed to sympathize, 
of a people struggling for independence. 

It was my obvious duty to be one of the small minority who pro- 
tested against this perverted state of public opinion. I was not the 
first to protest. It ought to be remembered to the honour of Mr. 
Hughes and of Mr. Ludlow, that they, by writings published at the 
very beginning of the struggle, began the protestation. Mr. Bright 
followed in one of the most powerful of his speeches, followed by 
others not less striking. I was on the point of adding my word to 
theirs, when there occurred, towards the end of 1861, the seizure 
of the Southern envoys on board a British vessel, by an officer of 
the United States. Even English forgetfulness has not yet had time 
to lose all remembrance of the explosion of feeling in England which 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 167 

then burst forth, the expectation, which prevailed for some weeks, of 
war with the United States, and the warlike preparations actually 
commenced on this side. While this state of things lasted, there 
was no chance of a hearing for anything favourable to the American 
cause; and, moreover, I agreed with those who thought the act 
unjustifiable, and such as to require that England should demand 
its disavowal. When the disavowal came, and the alarm of war was 
over, I wrote, in January, 1862, the paper, in Eraser's Magazine, en- 
titled "The Contest in America."* * * * * 
Written and published when it was, this paper helped to encourage 
those Liberals who had felt overborne by the tide of illiberal opinion, 
and to form in favour of the good cause a nucleus of opinion which 
increased gradually, and, after the success of the North began to seem 
probable, rapidly. When we returned from our journey, I wrote a 
second article, a review of Professor Cairnes' book, published in the 
Westminster Review. England is paying the penalty, in many un- 
comfortable ways, of the durable resentment which her ruling classes 
stirred up in the United States by their ostentatious wishes for the 
ruin of America as a nation: they have reason to be thankful that 
a few, if only a few, known writers and speakers, standing firmly by 
the Americans in the time of their greatest difficulty, effected a partial 
diversion of these bitter feelings, and made Great Britain not alto- 
gether odious to the Americans. 

This duty having been performed, my principal occupation for the 
next two years was on subjects not political. The publication of Mr. 
Austin's Lectures on Jurisprudence after his decease, gave me an 
opportunity of paying a deserved tribute to his memory, and at the 
same time expressing some thoughts on a subject on which, in my 
old days of Benthamism, I had bestowed much study. But the chief 
product of those years was the Examination of Sir William Hamil- 
ton's Philosophy. His Lectures, published in 1860 and 1861, I had 
read towards the end of the latter year, with a half -formed intention 
of giving an account of them in a Review, but I soon found that this 
would be idle, and that justice could not be done to the subject in 
less than a volume. I had then to consider whether it would be 
advisable that I myself should attempt such a performance. On con- 
sideration, there seemed to be strong reasons for doing so. I was 



1 68 JOHN STUART MILL 

greatly disappointed with the Lectures. I read them, certainly, with 
no prejudice against Sir William Hamilton. I had up to that time 
deferred the study of his Notes to Reid on account of their unfin- 
ished state, but I had not neglected his "Discussions in Philosophy;" 
and though I knew that his general mode of treating the facts of 
mental philosophy differed from that of which I most approved, yet 
his vigorous polemic against the later Transcendentalists, and his 
strenuous assertion of some important principles, especially the Rel- 
ativity of human knowledge, gave me many points of sympathy with 
his opinions, and made me think that genuine psychology had con- 
siderably more to gain than to lose by his authority and reputation. 
His Lectures and the Dissertations on Reid dispelled this illusion: 
and even the Discussions, read by the light which these throw on 
them, lose much of their value. I found that the points of apparent 
agreement between his opinions and mine were more verbal than 
real; that the important philosophical principles which I had thought 
he recognized, were so explained away by him as to mean little or 
nothing, or were continually lost sight of, and doctrines entirely 
inconsistent with them were taught in nearly every part of his phi- 
losophical writings. My estimation of him was therefore so far al- 
tered, that instead of regarding him as occupying a kind of interme- 
diate position between the two rival philosophies, holding some of 
the principles of both, and supplying to both powerful weapons of 
attack and defence, I now looked upon him as one of the pillars, 
and in this country from his high philosophical reputation the chief 
pillar, of that one of the two which seemed to me to be erroneous. 

Now, the difference between these two schools of philosophy, that 
of Intuition, and that of Experience and Association, is not a mere 
matter of abstract speculation; it is full of practical consequences, 
and lies at the foundation of all the greatest differences of practical 
opinion in an age of progress. The practical reformer has contin- 
ually to demand that changes be made in things which are supported 
by powerful and widely-spread feelings, or to question the apparent 
necessity and indefeasibleness of established facts; and it is often an 
indispensable part of his argument to show, how those powerful 
feelings had their origin, and how those facts came to seem necessary 
and indefeasible. There is therefore a natural hostility between him 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 169 

and a philosophy which discourages the explanation of feelings and 
moral facts by circumstances and association, and prefers to treat 
them as ultimate elements of human nature; a philosophy which is 
addicted to holding up favourite doctrines as intuitive truths, and 
deems intuition to be the voice of Nature and of God, speaking 
with an authority higher than that of our reason. 

In particular, I have long felt that the prevailing tendency to re- 
gard all the marked distinctions of human character as innate, and 
in the main indelible, and to ignore the irresistible proofs that by far 
the greater part of those differences, whether between individuals, 
races, or sexes, are such as not only might but naturally would be 
produced by differences in circumstances, is one of the chief hin- 
drances to the rational treatment of great social questions, and one 
of the greatest stumbling blocks to human improvement. This tend- 
ency has its source in the intuitional metaphysics which characterized 
the reaction of the nineteenth century against the eighteenth, and 
it is a tendency so agreeable to human indolence, as well as to con- 
servative interests generally, that unless attacked at the very root, it 
is sure to be carried to even a greater length than is really justified 
by the more moderate forms of the intuitional philosophy. That 
philosophy, not always in its moderate forms, had ruled the thought 
of Europe for the greater part of a century. My father's Analysis 
of the Mind, my own Logic, and Professor Bain's great treatise, 
had attempted to re-introduce a better mode of philosophizing, 
latterly with quite as much success as could be expected; but I had 
for some time felt that the mere contrast of the two philosophies was 
not enough, that there ought to be a hand-to-hand fight between 
them, that controversial as well as expository writings were needed, 
and that the time was come when such controversy would be useful. 
Considering then the writings and fame of Sir W. Hamilton as 
the great fortress of the intuitional philosophy in this country, a 
fortress the more formidable from the imposing character, and the 
in many respects great personal merits and mental endowments, 
of the man, I thought it might be a real service to philosophy to 
attempt a thorough examination of all his most important doctrines, 
and an estimate of his general claims to eminence as a philosopher, 
and I was confirmed in this resolution by observing that in the writ- 



I7O JOHN STUART MILL 

ings of at least one, and him one of the ablest, of Sir W. Hamilton's 
followers, his peculiar doctrines were made the justification of a 
view of religion which I hold to be profoundly immoral that it is 
our duty to bow down in worship before a Being whose natural 
attributes are affirmed to be unknowable by us, and to be perhaps 
extremely different from those which, when we are speaking of our 
fellow creatures, we call by the same names. 

As I advanced in my task, the damage to Sir. W. Hamilton's repu- 
tation became greater than I at first expected, through the almost 
incredible multitude of inconsistencies which showed themselves 
on comparing different passages with one another. It was my busi- 
ness, however, to show things exactly as they were, and I did not 
flinch from it. I endeavoured always to treat the philosopher whom 
I criticised with the most scrupulous fairness; and I knew that he 
had abundance of disciples and admirers to correct me if I ever 
unintentionally did him injustice. Many of them accordingly have 
answered me, more or less elaborately; and they have pointed out 
oversights and misunderstandings, though few in number, and 
mostly very unimportant in substance. Such of those as had (to my 
knowledge) been pointed out before the publication of the latest 
edition (at present the third) have been corrected there, and the 
remainder of the criticisms have been, as far as seemed necessary, 
replied to. On the whole, the book has done its work: it has shown 
the weak side of Sir William Hamilton, and has reduced his too 
great philosophical reputation within more moderate bounds; and 
by some of its discussions, as well as by two expository chapters, on 
the notions of Matter and of Mind, it has perhaps thrown additional 
light on some of the disputed questions in the domain of psychology 
and metaphysics. 

After the completion of the book on Hamilton, I applied myself 
to a task which a variety of reasons seemed to render specially incum- 
bent upon me; that of giving an account, and forming an estimate, 
of the doctrines of Auguste Comte. I had contributed more than 
any one else to make his speculations known in England, and, in 
consequence chiefly of what I had said of him in my Logic, he had 
readers and admirers among thoughtful men on this side of the 
Channel at a time when his name had not yet in France emerged 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

from obscurity. So unknown and unappreciated was he at the time 
when my Logic was written and published, that to criticise his weak 
points might well appear superfluous, while it was a duty to give as 
much publicity as one could to the important contributions he had 
made to philosophic thought. At the time, however, at which I have 
now arrived, this state of affairs had entirely changed. His name, at 
least, was known almost universally, and the general character of his 
doctrines very widely. He had taken his place in the estimation 
both of friends and opponents, as one of the conspicuous figures in 
the thought of the age. The better parts of his speculations had made 
great progress in working their way into those minds, which, by 
their previous culture and tendencies, were fitted to receive them: 
under cover of those better parts those of a worse character, greatly 
developed and added to in his later writings, had also made some 
way, having obtained active and enthusiastic adherents, some of 
them of no inconsiderable personal merit, in England, France, and 
other countries. These causes not only made it desirable that some 
one should undertake the task of sifting what is good from what is 
bad in M. Comte's speculations, but seemed to impose on myself 
in particular a special obligation to make the attempt. This I ac- 
cordingly did in two essays, published in successive numbers of the 
Westminster Review, and reprinted in a small volume under the 
title "Auguste Comte and Positivism." 

The writings which I have now mentioned, together with a small 
number of papers in periodicals which I have not deemed worth 
preserving, were the whole of the products of my activity as a writer 
during the years from 1859 to 1865. In the early part of the last- 
mentioned year, in compliance with a wish frequently expressed to 
me by working men, I published cheap People's Editions of those 
of my writings which seemed the most likely to find readers among 
the working classes : viz., Principles of Political Economy, Liberty, 
and Representative Government. This was a considerable sacrifice 
of my pecuniary interest, especially as I resigned all idea of deriving 
profit from the cheap editions, and after ascertaining from my pub- 
lishers the lowest price which they thought would remunerate 
them on the usual terms of an equal division of profits, I gave up my 
half share to enable the price to be fixed still lower. To the credit of 



172 JOHN STUART MILL 

Messrs. Longman they fixed, unasked, a certain number of years 
after which the copyright and stereotype plates were to revert to 
me, and a certain number of copies after the sale of which I should 
receive half of any further profit. This number of copies (which in 
the case of the Political Economy was 10,000) has for some time been 
exceeded, and the People's Editions have begun to yield me a small 
but unexpected pecuniary return, though very far from an equivalent 
for the diminution of profit from the Library Editions. 

In this summary of my outward life I have now arrived at the 
period at which my tranquil and retired existence as a writer of 
books was to be exchanged for the less congenial occupation of a 
member of the House of Commons. The proposal made to me early 
in 1865, by some electors of Westminster, did not present the idea to 
me for the first time. It was not even the first offer I had received, 
for, more than ten years previous, in consequence of my opinions on 
the Irish Land Question, Mr. Lucas and Mr. Duffy, in the name 
of the popular party in Ireland, offered to bring me into Parliament 
for an Irish county, which they could easily have done: but the in- 
compatibility of a seat in Parliament with the office I then held in 
the India House, precluded even consideration of the proposal. After 
I had quitted the India House, several of my friends would gladly 
have seen me a member of Parliament; but there seemed no prob- 
ability that the idea would ever take any practical shape. I was 
convinced that no numerous or influential portion of any electoral 
body, really wished to be represented by a person of my opinions; 
and that one who possessed no local connexion or popularity, and 
who did not choose to stand as the mere organ of a party, had small 
chance of being elected anywhere unless through the expenditure of 
money. Now it was, and is, my fixed conviction, that a candidate 
ought not to incur one farthing of expense for undertaking a public 
duty. Such of the lawful expenses of an election as have no special 
reference to any particular candidate, ought to be borne as a public 
charge, either by the State or by the locality. What has to be done 
by the supporters of each candidate in order to bring his claims 
properly before the constituency, should be done by unpaid agency, 
or by voluntary subscription. If members of the electoral body, or 
others, are willing to subscribe money of their own for the purpose 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 173 

of bringing, by lawful means, into Parliament some one who they 
think would be useful there, no one is entitled to object: but that the 
expense, or any part of it, should fall on the candidate, is funda- 
mentally wrong; because it amounts in reality to buying his seat. 
Even on the most favourable supposition as to the mode in which 
the money is expended, there is a legitimate suspicion that any one 
who gives money for leave to undertake a public trust, has other 
than public ends to promote by it; and (a consideration of the great- 
est importance) the cost of elections, when borne by the candidates, 
deprives the nation of the services, as members of Parliament, of all 
who cannot or will not afford to incur a heavy expense. I do not 
say that, so long as there is scarcely a chance for an independent 
candidate to come into Parliament without complying with this 
vicious practice, it must always be morally wrong in him to spend 
money, provided that no part of it is either directly or indirectly 
employed in corruption. But, to justify it, he ought to be very cer- 
tain that he can be of more use to his country as a member of 
Parliament than in any other mode which is open to him; and this 
assurance, in my own case, I did not feel. It was by no means clear 
to me that I could do more to advance the public objects which had 
a claim on my exertions, from the benches of the House of Com- 
mons, than from the simple position of a writer. I felt, therefore, that 
I ought not to seek election to Parliament, much less to expend any 
money in procuring it. 

But the conditions of the question were considerably altered when 
a body of electors sought me out, and spontaneously offered to bring 
me forward as their candidate. If it should appear, on explanation, 
that they persisted in this wish, knowing my opinions, and accepting 
the only conditions on which I could conscientiously serve, it was 
questionable whether this was not one of those calls upon a member 
of the community by his fellow-citizens, which he was scarcely 
justified in rejecting. I therefore put their disposition to the proof 
by one of the frankest explanations ever tendered, I should think, 
to an electoral body by a candidate. I wrote, in reply to the offer, 
a letter for publication, saying that I had no personal wish to be a 
member of Parliament, that I thought a candidate ought neither to 
canvass nor to incur any expense, and that I could not consent to 



174 JOHN STUART MILL 

do either. I said further, that if elected, I could not undertake to 
give any of my time and labour to their local interests. With respect 
to general politics, I told them without reserve, what I thought on a 
number of important subjects on which they had asked my opinion; 
and one of these being the suffrage, I made known to them, among 
other things, my conviction (as I was bound to do, since I intended, 
if elected, to act on it), that women were entitled to representation 
in Parliament on the same terms with men. It was the first time, 
doubtless, that such a doctrine had ever been mentioned to English 
electors; and the fact that I was elected after proposing it, gave the 
start to the movement which has since become so vigorous, in favour 
of women's suffrage. Nothing, at the time, appeared more unlikely 
than a candidate (if candidate I could be called) whose professions 
and conduct set so completely at defiance all ordinary notions of 
electioneering, should nevertheless be elected. A well-known literary 
man was heard to say that the Almighty himself would have no 
chance of being elected on such a programme. I strictly adhered to it, 
neither spending money nor canvassing, nor did I take any personal 
part in the election, until about a week preceding the day of nomi- 
nation, when I attended a few public meetings to state my principles 
and give answers to any questions which the electors might exercise 
their just right of putting to me for their own guidance; answers as 
plain and unreserved as my address. On one subject only, my re- 
ligious opinions, I announced from the beginning that I would 
answer no questions; a determination which appeared to be com- 
pletely approved by those who attended the meetings. My frankness 
on all other subjects on which I was interrogated, evidently did me 
far more good than my answers, whatever they might be, did harm. 
Among the proofs I received of this, one is too remarkable not to 
be recorded. In the pamphlet, "Thoughts on Parliamentary Re- 
form," I had said, rather bluntly, that the working classes, though 
differing from those of some other countries, in being ashamed of 
lying, are yet generally liars. This passage some opponent got printed 
in a placard, which was handed to me at a meeting, chiefly composed 
of the working classes, and I was asked whether I had written and 
published it. I at once answered "I did." Scarcely were these two 
words out of my mouth, when vehement applause resounded through 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 175 

the whole meeting. It was evident that the working people were so 
accustomed to expect equivocation and evasion from those who 
sought their suffrages, that when they found, instead of that, a 
direct avowal of what was likely to be disagreeable to them, instead 
of being affronted, they concluded at once that this was a person 
whom they could trust. A more striking instance never came under 
my notice of what, I believe, is the experience of those who best 
know the working classes, that the most essential of all recommenda- 
tions to their favour is that of complete straightforwardness; its 
presence outweighs in their minds very strong objections, while no 
amount of other qualities will make amends for its apparent ab- 
sence. The first working man who spoke after the incident I have 
mentioned (it was Mr. Odger) said, that the working classes had no 
desire not to be told of their faults; they wanted friends, not flat- 
terers, and felt under obligation to any one who told them anything 
in themselves which he sincerely believed to require amendment. 
And to this the meeting heartily responded. 

Had I been defeated in the election, I should still have had no 
reason to regret the contact it had brought me into with large bodies 
of my countrymen; which not only gave me much new experience, 
but enabled me to scatter my political opinions more widely, and, 
by making me known in many quarters where I had never before 
been heard of, increased the number of my readers, and the pre- 
sumable influence of my writings. These latter effects were of course 
produced in a still greater degree, when, as much to my surprise as 
to that of any one, I was returned to Parliament by a majority of 
some hundreds over my Conservative competitor. 

I was a member of the House during the three sessions of the 
Parliament which passed the Reform Bill; during which time Par- 
liament was necessarily my main occupation except during the 
recess. I was a tolerably frequent speaker, sometimes of prepared 
speeches, sometimes extemporaneously. But my choice of occasions 
was not such as I should have made if my leading object had been 
Parliamentary influence. When I had gained the ear of the House, 
which I did by a successful speech on Mr. Gladstone's Reform Bill, 
the idea I proceeded on was that when anything was likely to be as 
well done, or sufficiently well done, by other people, there was no 



176 JOHN STUART MILL 

necessity for me to meddle with it. As I, therefore, in general re- 
served myself for work which no others were likely to do, a great 
proportion of my appearances were on points on which the bulk of 
the Liberal party, even the advanced portion of it, either were of a 
different opinion from mine, or were comparatively indifferent. 
Several of my speeches, especially one against the motion for the 
abolition of capital punishment, and another in favour of resuming 
the right of seizing enemies' goods in neutral vessels, were opposed 
to what then was, and probably still is, regarded as the advanced 
Liberal opinion. My advocacy of women's suffrage and of Personal 
Representation, were at the time looked upon by many as whims 
of my own; but the great progress since made by those opinions, and 
especially the response made from almost all parts of the kingdom 
to the demand for women's suffrage, fully justified the timeliness of 
those movements, and have made what was undertaken as a moral 
and social duty, a personal success. Another duty which was par- 
ticularly incumbent on me as one of the metropolitan members, was 
the attempt to obtain a Municipal Government for the Metropolis: 
but on that subject the indifference of the House of Commons was 
such that I found hardly any help or support within its walls. On 
this subject, however, I was the organ of an active and intelligent 
body of persons outside, with whom, and not with me, the scheme 
originated, and who carried on all the agitation on the subject and 
drew up the Bills. My part was to bring in Bills already prepared, 
and to sustain the discussion of them during the short time they were 
allowed to remain before the House; after having taken an active 
part in the work of a Committee presided over by Mr. Ayrton, which 
sat through the greater part of the session of 1866, to take evidence 
on the subject. The very different position in which the question 
now stands (1870) may justly be attributed to the preparation which 
went on during those years, and which produced but little visible 
effect at the time; but all questions on which there are strong private 
interests on one side, and only the public good on the other, have a 
similar period of incubation to go through. 

The same idea, that the use of my being in Parliament was to do 
work which others were not able or not willing to do, made me think 
it my duty to come to the front in defence of advanced Liberalism 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 177 

on occasions when the obloquy to be encountered was such as most 
of the advanced Liberals in the House, preferred not to incur. My 
first vote in the House was in support of an amendment in favour 
of Ireland, moved by an Irish member, and for which only five 
English and Scotch votes were given, including my own: the other 
four were Mr. Bright, Mr. M'Laren, Mr. T. B. Potter, and Mr. 
Hadfield. And the second speech I delivered 8 was on the Bill to 
prolong the suspension of the Habeas Corpus in Ireland. In de- 
nouncing, on this occasion, the English mode of governing Ireland, 
I did no more than the general opinion of England now admits to 
have been just; but the anger against Fenianism was then in all its 
freshness; any attack on what Fenians attacked was looked upon as 
an apology for them; and I was so unfavourably received by the 
House, that more than one of my friends advised me (and my own 
judgment agreed with the advice) to wait, before speaking again, 
for the favourable opportunity that would be given by the first great 
debate on the Reform Bill. During this silence, many flattered them- 
selves that I had turned out a failure, and that they should not be 
troubled with me any more. Perhaps their uncomplimentary com- 
ments may, by the force of reaction, have helped to make my speech 
on the Reform Bill the success it was. My position in the House 
was further improved by a speech in which I insisted on the duty 
of paying off the National Debt before our coal supplies are ex- 
hausted, and by an ironical reply to some of the Tory leaders who 
had quoted against me certain passages of my writings, and called 
me to account for others, especially for one in my "Considerations 
on Representative Government," which said that the Conservative 
party was, by the law of its composition, the stupidest party. They 
gained nothing by drawing attention to the passage, which up to 
that time had not excited any notice, but the sobriquet of "the stupid 
party" stuck to them for a considerable time afterwards. Having 
now no longer any apprehension of not being listened to, I confined 
myself, as I have since thought too much, to occasions on which my 

8 The first was in answer to Mr. Lowe's reply to Mr. Bright on the Cattle Plague 
Bill, and was thought at the time to have helped to get rid of a provision in the 
Government measure which would have given to landholders a second indemnity, 
after they had already been once indemnified for the loss of some of their cattle by 
the increased selling price of the remainder. 



178 JOHN STUART MILL 

services seemed specially needed, and abstained more than enough 
from speaking on the great party questions. With the exception of 
Irish questions, and those which concerned the working classes, a 
single speech on Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill was nearly all that I 
contributed to the great decisive debates of the last two of my three 
sessions. 

I have, however, much satisfaction in looking back to the part I 
took on the two classes of subjects just mentioned. With regard 
to the working classes, the chief topic of my speech on Mr. Glad- 
stone's Reform Bill was the assertion of their claims to the suffrage. 
A little later, after the resignation of Lord Russell's Ministry and the 
succession of a Tory Government, came the attempt of the working 
classes to hold a meeting in Hyde Park, their exclusion by the police, 
and the breaking down of the park railing by the crowd. Though 
Mr. Beales and the leaders of the working men had retired under 
protest when this took place, a scuffle ensued in which many inno- 
cent persons were maltreated by the police, and the exasperation of 
the working men was extreme. They showed a determination to 
make another attempt at a meeting in the Park, to which many of 
them would probably have come armed; the Government made 
military preparations to resist the attempt, and something very 
serious seemed impending. At this crisis I really believe that I was 
the means of preventing much mischief. I had in my place in Par- 
liament taken the side of the working men, and strongly censured 
the conduct of the Government. I was invited, with several other 
Radical members, to a conference with the leading members of the 
Council of the Reform League; and the task fell chiefly upon myself, 
of persuading them to give up the Hyde Park project, and hold their 
meeting elsewhere. It was not Mr. Beales and Colonel Dickson who 
needed persuading; on the contrary, it was evident that these gentle- 
men had already exerted their influence in the same direction, thus 
far without success. It was the working men who held out, and so 
bent were they on their original scheme, that I was obliged to have 
recourse to les grands moyens. I told them that a proceeding which 
would certainly produce a collision with the military, could only be 
justifiable on two conditions: if the position of affairs had become 
such that a revolution was desirable, and if they thought themselves 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 179 

able to accomplish one. To this argument, after considerable dis- 
cussion, they at last yielded: and I was able to inform Mr. Walpole 
that their intention was given up. I shall never forget the depth of 
his relief or the warmth of his expressions of gratitude. After the 
working men had conceded so much to me, I felt bound to comply 
with their request that I would attend and speak at their meeting 
at the Agricultural Hall; the only meeting called by the Reform 
League which I ever attended. I had always declined being a mem- 
ber of the League, on the avowed ground that I did not agree in its 
programme of manhood suffrage and the ballot: from the ballot I 
dissented entirely; and I could not consent to hoist the flag of man- 
hood suffrage, even on the assurance that the exclusion of women 
was not intended to be implied; since if one goes beyond what can 
be immediately carried, and professes to take one's stand on a 
principle, one should go the whole length of the principle. I have 
entered thus particularly into this matter because my conduct on 
this occasion gave great displeasure to the Tory and Tory-Liberal 
press, who have charged me ever since with having shown myself, 
in the trials of public life, intemperate and passionate. I do not 
know what they expected from me; but they had reason to be thank- 
ful to me if they knew from what I had, in all probability, preserved 
them. And I do not believe it could have been done, at that particu- 
lar juncture, by any one else. No other person, I believe, had at that 
moment the necessary influence for restraining the working classes, 
except Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright, neither of whom was avail- 
able: Mr. Gladstone for obvious reasons; Mr. Bright because he was 
out of town. 

When, some time later, the Tory Government brought in a Bill 
to prevent public meetings in the Parks, I not only spoke strongly 
in opposition to it, but formed one of a number of advanced Liberals, 
who, aided by the very late period of the session, succeeded in 
defeating the Bill by what is called talking it out. It has not since 
been renewed. 

On Irish affairs also I felt bound to take a decided part. I was 
one of the foremost in the deputation of members of Parliament who 
prevailed on Lord Derby to spare the life of the condemned Fenian 
insurgent, General Burke. The Church question was so vigorously 



l8o JOHN STUART MILL 

handled by the leaders of the party, in the session of 1868, as to 
require no more from me than an emphatic adhesion: but the land 
question was by no means in so advanced a position: the supersti- 
tions of landlordism had up to that time been little challenged, 
especially in Parliament, and the backward state of the question, 
so far as concerned the Parliamentary mind, was evidenced by the 
extremely mild measure brought in by Lord Russell's Government 
in 1866, which nevertheless could not be carried. On that Bill I 
delivered one of my most careful speeches, in which I attempted 
to lay down some of the principles of the subject, in a manner 
calculated less to stimulate friends, than to conciliate and convince 
opponents. The engrossing subject of Parliamentary Reform pre- 
vented either this Bill, or one of a similar character brought in by 
Lord Derby's Government, from being carried through. They 
never got beyond the second reading. Meanwhile the signs of Irish 
disaffection had become much more decided; the demand for 
complete separation between the two countries had assumed a 
menacing aspect, and there were few who did not feel that if there 
was still any chance of reconciling Ireland to the British connexion, 
it could only be by the adoption of much more thorough reforms in 
the territorial and social relations of the country, than had yet been 
contemplated. The time seemed to me to have come when it would 
be useful to speak out my whole mind; and the result was my 
pamphlet "England and Ireland," which was written in the winter 
of 1867, and published shortly before the commencement of the 
session of 1868. The leading features of the pamphlet were, on the 
one hand, an argument to show the undesirableness, for Ireland as 
well as for England, of separation between the countries, and on 
the other, a proposal for settling the land question by giving to the 
existing tenants a permanent tenure, at a fixed rent, to be assessed 
after due inquiry by the State. 

The pamphlet was not popular, except in Ireland, as I did not 
expect it to be. But, if no measure short of that which I proposed 
would do full justice to Ireland, or afford a prospect of conciliating 
the mass of the Irish people, the duty of proposing it was imperative; 
while if, on the other hand, there was any intermediate course which 
had a claim to a trial, I well knew that to propose something which 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY l8l 

would be called extreme, was the true way not to impede but to 
facilitate a more moderate experiment. It is most improbable that 
a measure conceding so much to the tenantry as Mr. Gladstone's 
Irish Land Bill, would have been proposed by a Government, or 
could have been carried through Parliament, unless the British 
public had been led to perceive that a case might be made, and 
perhaps a party formed, for a measure considerably stronger. It is 
the character of the British people, or at least of the higher and 
middle classes who pass muster for the British people, that to induce 
them to approve of any change, it is necessary that they should 
look upon it as a middle course: they think every proposal extreme 
and violent unless they hear of some other proposal going still 
farther, upon which their antipathy to extreme views may discharge 
itself. So it proved in the present instance; my proposal was con- 
demned, but any scheme for Irish Land reform, short of mine, came 
to be thought moderate by comparison. I may observe that the 
attacks made on my plan usually gave a very incorrect idea of its 
nature. It was usually discussed as a proposal that the State should 
buy up the land and become the universal landlord; though in fact 
it only offered to each individual landlord this as an alternative, if 
he liked better to sell his estate than to retain it on the new con- 
ditions; and I fully anticipated that most landlords would continue 
to prefer the position of landowners to that of Government an- 
nuitants, and would retain their existing relation to their tenants, 
often on more indulgent terms than the full rents on which the 
compensation to be given them by Government would have been 
based. This and many other explanations I gave in a speech on 
Ireland, in the debate on Mr. Maguire's resolution, early in the 
session of 1868. A corrected report of this speech, together with 
my speech on Mr. Fortescue's Bill, has been published (not by me, 
but with my permission) in Ireland. 

Another public duty, of a most serious kind, it was my lot to have 
to perform, both in and out of Parliament, during these years. 
A disturbance in Jamaica, provoked in the first instance by injustice, 
and exaggerated by rage and panic into a premeditated rebellion, 
had been the motive or excuse for taking hundreds of innocent lives 
by military violence, or by sentence of what were called courts- 



1 82 JOHN STUART MILL 

martial, continuing for weeks after the brief disturbance had been 
put down; with many added atrocities of destruction of property, 
flogging women as well as men, and a general display of the brutal 
recklessness which usually prevails when fire and sword are let 
loose. The perpetrators of those deeds were defended and applauded 
in England by the same kind of people who had so long upheld 
negro slavery: and it seemed at first as if the British nation was 
about to incur the disgrace of letting pass without even a protest, 
excesses of authority as revolting as any of those for which, when 
perpetrated by the instruments of other Governments, Englishmen 
can hardly find terms sufficient to express their abhorrence. After 
a short time, however, an indignant feeling was roused : a voluntary 
Association formed itself under the name of the Jamaica Committee, 
to take such deliberation and action as the case might admit of, and 
adhesions poured in from all parts of the country. I was abroad 
at the time, but I sent in my name to the Committee as soon as I 
heard of it, and took an active part in the proceedings from the 
time of my return. There was much more at stake than only justice 
to the Negroes, imperative as was that consideration. The question 
was, whether the British dependencies, and eventually, perhaps, 
Great Britain itself, were to be under the government of law, or of 
military license; whether the lives and persons of British subjects 
are at the mercy of any two or three officers however raw and in- 
experienced or reckless and brutal, whom a panic-stricken Governor, 
or other functionary, may assume the right to constitute into a so- 
railed court-martial. This question could only be decided by an 
appeal to the tribunals; and such an appeal the Committee de- 
termined to make. Their determination led to a change in the 
chairmanship of the Committee, as the chairman, Mr. Charles 
Buxton, thought it not unjust indeed, but inexpedient, to prosecute 
Governor Eyre and his principal subordinates in a criminal court; 
but a numerously attended general meeting of the Association hav- 
ing decided this point against him, Mr. Buxton withdrew from the 
Committee, though continuing to work in the cause, and I was, 
quite unexpectedly on my own part, proposed and elected chairman. 
it became, in consequence, my duty to represent the Committee in 
the House of Commons, sometimes by putting questions to the 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 183 

Government, sometimes as the recipient of questions, more or less 
provocative, addressed by individual members to myself; but 
especially as speaker in the important debate originated in the 
session of 1866 by Mr. Buxton: and the speech I then delivered is 
that which I should probably select as the best of my speeches in 
Parliament. 9 For more than two years we carried on the combat, 
trying every avenue legally open to us, to the Courts of Criminal 
Justice. A bench of magistrates in one of the most Tory counties 
in England dismissed our case: we were more successful before the 
magistrates at Bow Street; which gave an opportunity to the Lord 
Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, Sir Alexander Cockburn, for 
delivering his celebrated charge, which settled the law of the ques- 
tion in favour of liberty, as far as it is in the power of a judge's 
charge to settle it. There, however, our success ended, for the 
Old Bailey Grand Jury by throwing out our Bill prevented the case 
from coming to trial. It was clear that to bring English function- 
aries to the bar of a criminal court for abuses of power committed 
against negroes and mulattoes was not a popular proceeding with 
the English middle classes. We had, however, redeemed, so far 
as lay in us, the character of our country, by showing that there 
was at any rate a body of persons determined to use all the means 
which the law afforded to obtain justice for the injured. We had 
elicited from the highest criminal judge in the nation an authorita- 
tive declaration that the law was what we maintained it to be; and 
we had given an emphatic warning to those who might be tempted 
to similar guilt hereafter, that, though they might escape the 
actual sentence of a criminal tribunal, they were not safe against 
being put to some trouble and expense in order to avoid it. Colonial 
governors and other persons in authority, will have a considerable 
motive to stop short of such extremities in future. 

As a matter of curiosity, I kept some specimens of the abusive 
letters, almost all of them anonymous, which I received while these 
proceedings were going on. They are evidence of the sympathy 
felt with the brutalities in Jamaica by the brutal part of the popula- 

9 Among the most active members of the Committee were Mr. P. A. Taylor, M.P., 
always faithful and energetic in every assertion of the principles of liberty; Mr. 
Goldwin Smith, Mr. Frederick Harrison, Mr. Slack, Mr. Chamerovzow, Mr. Shaen, 
and Mr. Chesson, the Honorary Secretary of the Association. 



184 JOHN STUART MILL 

tion at home. They graduated from coarse jokes, verbal and pic* 
torial, up to threats of assassination. 

Among other matters of importance in which I took an active 
part, but which excited little interest in the public, two deserve 
particular mention. I joined with several other independent Liberals 
in defeating an Extradition Bill introduced at the very end of the 
session of 1866, and by which, though surrender avowedly for 
political offences was not authorized, political refugees, if charged 
by a foreign Government with acts which are necessarily incident to 
all attempts at insurrection, would have been surrendered to be 
dealt with by the criminal courts of the Government against which 
they had rebelled: thus making the British Government an ac- 
complice in the vengeance of foreign despotisms. The defeat of this 
proposal led to the appointment of a Select Committee (in which 
I was included), to examine and report on the whole subject of 
Extradition Treaties; and the result was, that in the Extradition 
Act which passed through Parliament after I had ceased to be a 
member, opportunity, is given to any one whose extradition is de- 
manded, of being heard before an English court of justice to prove 
that the offence with which he is charged, is really political. The 
cause of European freedom has thus been saved from a serious 
misfortune, and our own country from a great iniquity. The 
other subject to be mentioned is the fight kept up by a body of ad- 
vanced Liberals in the session of 1868, on the Bribery Bill of Mr. 
Disraeli's Government, in which I took a very active part. I had 
taken counsel with several of those who had applied their minds 
most carefully to the details of the subject Mr. W. D. Christie, 
Serjeant Pulling, Mr. Chad wick as well as bestowed much thought 
of my own, for the purpose of framing such amendments and 
additional clauses as might make the Bill really effective against the 
numerous modes of corruption, direct and indirect, which might 
otherwise, as there was much reason to fear, be increased instead of 
diminished by the Reform Act. We also aimed at engrafting on 
the Bill, measures for diminishing the mischievous burden of what 
are called the legitimate expenses of elections. Among our many 
amendments, was that of Mr. Fawcett for making the returning 
officer's expenses a charge on the rates, instead of on the candidates; 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 185 

another was the prohibition of paid canvassers, and the limitation 
of paid agents to one for each candidate; a third was the extension 
of the precautions and penalties against bribery, to municipal elec- 
tions, which are well known to be not only a preparatory school for 
bribery at Parliamentary elections, but an habitual cover for it. The 
Conservative Government, however, when once they had carried 
the leading provision of their Bill (for which I voted and spoke), 
the transfer of the jurisdiction in elections from the House of 
Commons to the Judges, made a determined resistance to all other 
improvements; and after one of the most important proposals, that 
of Mr. Fawcett, had actually obtained a majority, they summoned 
the strength of their party and threw out the clause in a subsequent 
stage. The Liberal party in the House was greatly dishonoured 
by the conduct of many of its members in giving no help whatever 
to this attempt to secure the necessary conditions of an honest repre- 
sentation of the people. With their large majority in the House they 
could have carried all the amendments, or better ones if they had 
better to propose. But it was late in the session; members were 
eager to set about their preparations for the impending General 
Election: and while some (such as Sir Robert Anstruther), honour- 
ably remained at their post, though rival candidates were already 
canvassing their constituency, a much greater number placed their 
electioneering interests before their public duty. Many Liberals also 
looked with indifference on legislation against bribery, thinking that 
it merely diverted public interest from the Ballot, which they con- 
sidered, very mistakenly as I expect it will turn out, to be a sufficient, 
and the only, remedy. From these causes our fight, though kept up 
with great vigour for several nights, was wholly unsuccessful, and 
the practices which we sought to render more difficult, prevailed 
more widely than ever in the first General Election held under the 
new electoral law. 

In the general debates on Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill, my partici- 
pation was limited to the one speech already mentioned; but I 
made the Bill an occasion for bringing the two greatest improve- 
ments which remain to be made in Representative Government, 
formally before the House and the nation. One of them was 
Personal, or, as it is called with equal propriety, Proportional Repre- 



1 86 JOHN STUART MILL 

sentation. I brought this under the consideration of the House, by 
an expository and argumentative speech on Mr. Hare's plan; and 
subsequently I was active in support of the very imperfect substitute 
for that plan, which, in a small number of constituencies, Parliament 
was induced to adopt. This poor makeshift had scarcely any recom- 
mendation, except that it was a partial recognition of the evil which 
it did so little to remedy. As such, however, it was attacked by the 
same fallacies, and required to be defended on the same principles, 
as a really good measure; and its adoption in a few Parliamentary 
elections, as well as the subsequent introduction of what is called 
the Cumulative Vote in the elections for the London School Board, 
have had the good effect of converting the equal claim of all electors 
to a proportional share in the representation, from a subject of 
merely speculative discussion, into a question of practical politics, 
much sooner than would otherwise have been the case. 

This assertion of my opinions on Personal Representation cannot 
be credited with any considerable or visible amount of practical 
result. It was otherwise with the other motion which I made in the 
form of an amendment to the Reform Bill, and which was by far 
the most important, perhaps the only really important, public service 
I performed in the capacity of a member of Parliament; a motion 
to strike out the words which were understood to limit the electoral 
franchise to males, and thereby to admit to the suffrage all women 
who, as householders or otherwise, possessed the qualification re- 
quired of male electors. For women not to make their claim to the 
suffrage, at the time when the elective franchise was being largely 
extended, would have been to adjure the claim altogether; and a 
movement on the subject was begun in 1866, when I presented a 
petition for the suffrage, signed by a considerable number of distin- 
guished women. But it was as yet uncertain whether the proposal 
would obtain more than a few stray votes in the House: and when, 
after a debate in which the speakers on the contrary side were 
conspicuous by their feebleness, the votes recorded in favour of the 
motion amounted to 73 made up by pairs and tellers to above 80 
the surprise was general and the encouragement great: the greater, 
too, because one of those who voted for the motion was Mr. Bright, 
a fact which could only be attributed to the impression made on 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 187 

him by the debate, as he had previously made no secret of his non- 
concurrence in the proposal 

I believe I have mentioned all that is worth remembering of my 
proceedings in the House. But their enumeration, even if complete, 
would give but an inadequate idea of my occupations during that 
period, and especially of the time taken up by correspondence. For 
many years before my election to Parliament, I had been continually 
receiving letters from strangers, mostly addressed to me as a writer 
on philosophy, and either propounding difficulties or communicat- 
ing thoughts on subjects connected with logic or political economy. 
In common, I suppose, with all who are known as political econo- 
mists, I was a recipient of all the shallow theories and absurd pro- 
posals by which people are perpetually endeavouring to show the 
way to universal wealth and happiness by some artful reorganization 
of the currency. When there were signs of sufficient intelligence in 
the writers to make it worth while attempting to put them right, 
I took the trouble to point out their errors, until the growth of my 
correspondence made it necessary to dismiss such persons with very 
brief answers. Many, however, of the communications I received 
were more worthy of attention than these, and in some, over-sights 
of detail were pointed out in my writings, which I was thus enabled 
to correct. Correspondence of this sort naturally multiplied with 
the multiplication of the subjects on which I wrote, especially those 
of a metaphysical character. But when I became a member of 
Parliament, I began to receive letters on private grievances and on 
every imaginable subject that related to any kind of public affairs, 
however remote from my knowledge or pursuits. It was not my 
constituents in Westminster who laid this burden on me: they kept 
with remarkable fidelity to the understanding on which I had 
consented to serve. I received, indeed, now and then an application 
from some ingenuous youth to procure for him a small Government 
appointment; but these were few, and how simple and ignorant the 
writers were, was shown by the fact that the applications came in 
about equally whichever party was in power. My invariable answer 
was, that it was contrary to the principles on which I was elected 
to ask favours of any Government. But, on the whole, hardly any 
part of the country gave me less trouble than my own constituents. 



1 88 JOHN STUART MILL 

The general mass of correspondence, however, swelled into an 
oppressive burden. ***** # 



*** 



While I remained in Parliament my work as an author was un- 
avoidably limited to the recess. During that time I wrote (besides 
the pamphlet on Ireland, already mentioned), the Essay on Plato, 
published in the Edinburgh Review, and reprinted in the third 
volume of "Dissertations and Discussions;" and the address which, 
comformably to custom, I delivered to the University of St. An- 
drew's, whose students had done me the honour of electing me to 
the office of Rector. In this discourse I gave expression to many 
thoughts and opinions which had been accumulating in me through 
life, respecting the various studies which belong to a liberal educa- 
tion, their uses and influences, and the mode in which they should 
be pursued to render their influences most beneficial. The position 
taken up, vindicating the high educational value alike of the old 
classic and the new scientific studies, on even stronger grounds 
than are urged by most of their advocates, and insisting that it is 
only the stupid inefficiency of the usual teaching which makes those 
studies be regarded as competitors instead of allies, was, I think, 
calculated, not only to aid and stimulate the improvement which 
has happily commenced in the national institutions for higher educa- 
tion, but to diffuse juster ideas than we often find, even in highly 
educated men, on the conditions of the highest mental cultivation. 

During this period also I commenced (and completed soon after 
I had left Parliament) the performance of a duty to philosophy and 
to the memory of my father, by preparing and publishing an edition 
of the "Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind," with 
notes bringing up the doctrines of that admirable book to the latest 
improvements in science and in speculation. This was a joint under- 
taking: the psychological notes being furnished in about equal pro- 
portions by Mr. Bain and myself, while Mr. Grote supplied some 
valuable contributions on points in the history of philosophy inci- 
dently raised, and Dr. Andrew Findlater supplied the deficiencies 
in the book which had been occasioned by the imperfect philological 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 109 

knowledge of the time when it was written. Having been originally 
published at a time when the current of metaphysical speculation ran 
in a quite opposite direction to the psychology of Experience and 
Association, the "Analysis" had not obtained the amount of im- 
mediate success which it deserved, though it had made a deep im- 
pression on many individual minds, and had largely contributed, 
through those minds, to create that more favourable atmosphere for 
the Association Psychology of which we now have the benefit. 
Admirably adapted for a classbook of the Experience Metaphysics, 
it only required to be enriched, and in some cases corrected, by the 
results of more recent labours in the same school of thought, to 
stand, as it now does, in company with Mr. Bain's treatise, at the 
head of the systematic works on Analytic Psychology. 

In the Autumn of 1868 the Parliament which passed the Reform 
Act was dissolved, and at the new election for Westminster I was 
thrown out; not to my surprise, nor, I believe, to that of my 
principal supporters, though in the few days preceding the election 
they had become more sanguine than before. That I should not 
have been elected at all would not have required any explanation; 
what excites curiosity is that I should have been elected the first 
time, or, having been elected then, should have been defeated 
afterwards. But the efforts made to defeat me were far greater on 
the second occasion than on the first. For one thing, the Tory 
Government was now struggling for existence, and success in any 
contest was of more importance to them. Then, too, all persons of 
Tory feelings were far more embittered against me individually 
than on the previous occasion; many who had at first been either 
favourable or indifferent, were vehemently opposed to my re-elec- 
tion. As I had shown in my political writings that I was aware of 
the weak points in democratic opinions, some Conservatives, it 
seems, had not been without hopes of finding me an opponent of 
democracy : as I was able to see the Conservative side of the question, 
they presumed that, like them, I could not see any other side. Yet 
if they had really read my writings, they would have known that 
after giving full weight to all that appeared to me well grounded in 
the arguments against democracy, I unhesitatingly decided in its 
favour, while recommending that it should be accompanied by such 



I9O JOHN STUART MIU 

institutions as were consistent with its principle and calculated to 
ward off its inconveniences : one of the chief of these remedies being 
Proportional Representation, on which scarcely any of the Con- 
servatives gave me any support. Some Tory expectations appear 
to have been founded on the approbation I had expressed of plural 
voting, under certain conditions: and it has been surmised that the 
suggestion of this sort made in one of the resolutions which Mr. 
Disraeli introduced into the House preparatory to his Reform Bill 
(a suggestion which meeting with no favour he did not press), may 
have been occasioned by what I had written on the point : but if so, 
it was forgotten that I had made it an express condition that the 
privilege of a plurality of votes should be annexed to education, not 
to property, and even so, had approved of it only on the supposition 
of universal suffrage. How utterly inadmissible such plural voting 
would be under the suffrage given by the present Reform Act, is 
proved, to any who could otherwise doubt it, by the very small 
weight which the working classes are found to possess in elections, 
even under the law which gives no more votes to any one elector 
than to any other. 

While I thus was far more obnoxious to the Tory interest, and 
to many Conservative Liberals than I had formerly been, the course 
I pursued in Parliament had by no means been such as to make 
Liberals generally at all enthusiastic in my support. It has already 
been mentioned, how large a proportion of my prominent appear- 
ances had been on questions on which I differed from most of the 
Liberal party, or about which they cared little, and how few 
occasions there had been on which the line I took was such as could 
lead them to attach any great value to me as an organ of their 
opinions. I had moreover done things which had excited, in many 
minds, a personal prejudice against me. Many were offended by 
what they called the persecution of Mr. Eyre: and still greater 
offence was taken at my sending a subscription to the election ex- 
penses of Mr. Bradlaugh. Having refused to be at any expense for 
my own election, and having had all its expenses defrayed by others, 
I felt under a peculiar obligation to subscribe in my turn where 
funds were deficient for candidates whose election was desirable. I 
accordingly sent subscriptions to nearly all the working class candi- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

dates, and among others to Mr. Bradlaugh. He had the support 
of the working classes; having heard him speak, I knew him to be 
a man of ability, and he had proved that he was the reverse of a 
demagogue, by placing himself in strong opposition to the prevail- 
ing opinion of the democratic party on two such important subjects 
as Malthusianism and Personal Representation. Men of this sort, 
who, while sharing the democratic feelings of the working classes, 
judged political questions for themselves, and had courage to assert 
their individual convictions against popular opposition, were needed, 
as it seemed to me, in Parliament, and I did not think that Mr. 
Bradlaugh's anti-religious opinions (even though he had been in- 
temperate in the expression of them) ought to exclude him. In sub- 
scribing, however, to his election, I did what would have been highly 
imprudent if I had been at liberty to consider only the interests of 
my own re-election; and, as might be expected, the utmost possible 
use, both fair and unfair, was made of this act of mine to stir up 
the electors of Westminster against me. To these various causes, 
combined with an unscrupulous use of the usual pecuniary and 
other influences on the side of my Tory competitor, while none 
were used on my side, it is to be ascribed that I failed at my second 
election after having succeeded at the first. No sooner was the 
result of the election known than I received three or four invitations 
to become a candidate for other constituencies, chiefly counties; but 
even if success could have been expected, and this without expense, 
I was not disposed to deny myself the relief of returning to private 
life. I had no cause to feel humiliated at my rejection by the electors; 
and if I had, the feeling would have been far outweighed by the 
numerous expressions of regret which I received from all sorts of 
persons and places, and in a most marked degree from those mem- 
bers of the Liberal party in Parliament, with whom I had been 
accustomed to act. 

Since that time little has occurred which there is need to com- 
memorate in this place. I returned to my old pursuits and to the 
enjoyment of a country life in the south of Europe, alternating twice 
a year with a residence of some few weeks or months in the 
neighbourhood of London. I have written various articles in 
periodicals (chiefly in my friend Mr. Morley's Fortnightly Review), 



192 JOHN STUART MILL 

have made a small number of speeches on public occasions, have 
published the "Subjection of Women," written some years before, 
with some additions ******** 
* * and have commenced the preparation of matter for 
future books, of which it will be time to speak more particularly if 
I live to finish them. Here therefore, for the present, this memoir 
may close. 



ON LIBERTY 

BY 
JOHN STUART MILL 



ON LIBERTY 

CHAPTER I 
INTRODUCTORY 

THE subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the 
Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine 
of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the 
nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised 
by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and 
hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly in- 
fluences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, 
and is likely soon to make itself recognized as the vital question of 
the future. It is so far from being new, that, in a certain sense, it 
has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages, but in the stage 
of progress into which the more civilized portions of the species 
have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and re- 
quires a different and more fundamental treatment. 

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most con- 
spicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are 
earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. 
But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes 
of subjects, and the government. By liberty, was meant protection 
against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were con- 
ceived (except in some of the popular governments of Greece) as 
in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they 
ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a governing tribe 
or caste, who derived their authority from inheritance or conquest; 
who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed, 
and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire 
to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive 
exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly 

195 



196 JOHN STUART MILL 

dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against 
their subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent 
the weaker members of the community from being preyed upon by 
innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal 
of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. 
But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying 
upon the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable 
to be in a perpetual attitude of defence against his beak and claws. 
The aim, therefore, of patriots, was to set limits to the power which 
the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and 
this limitation was what they meant by liberty. It was attempted in 
two ways. First, by obtaining a recognition of certain immunities, 
called political liberties or rights, which it was to be regarded as a 
breach of duty in the ruler to infringe, and which, if he did infringe, 
specific resistance, or general rebellion, was held to be justifiable. 
A second, and generally a later expedient, was the establishment 
of constitutional checks; by which the consent of the community, 
or of a body of some sort supposed to represent its interests, was made 
a necessary condition to some of the more important acts of the 
governing power. To the first of these modes of limitation, the 
ruling power, in most European countries, was compelled, more 
or less, to submit. It was not so with the second; and to attain this, 
or when already in some degree possessed, to attain it more com- 
pletely, became everywhere the principal object of the lovers of 
liberty. And so long as mankind were content to combat one 
enemy by another, and to be ruled by a master, on condition of 
being guaranteed more or less efficaciously against his tyranny, they 
did not carry their aspirations beyond this point. 

A time, however, came in the progress of human affairs, when 
men ceased to think it a necessity of nature that their governors 
should be an independent power, opposed in interest to themselves. 
It appeared to them much better that the various magistrates of the 
State should be their tenants or delegates, revocable at their pleasure. 
In that way alone, it seemed, could they have complete security 
that the powers of government would never be abused to their 
disadvantage. By degrees, this new demand for elective and tem- 
porary rulers became the prominent object of the exertions of the 



ON LIBERTY 197 

popular party, wherever any such party existed; and superseded, 
to a considerable extent, the previous efforts to limit the power of 
rulers. As the struggle proceeded for making the ruling power 
emanate from the periodical choice of the ruled, some persons 
began to think that too much importance had been attached to the 
limitation of the power itself. That (it might seem) was a re- 
source against rulers whose interests were habitually opposed to 
those of the people. What was now wanted was, that the rulers 
should be identified with the people; that their interest and will 
should be the interest and will of the nation. The nation did not 
need to be protected against its own will. There was no fear of 
its tyrannizing over itself. Let the rulers be effectually responsible 
to it, promptly removable by it, and it could afford to trust them 
with power of which it could itself dictate the use to be made. 
Their power was but the nation's own power, concentrated, and 
in a form convenient for exercise. This mode of thought, or rather 
perhaps of feeling, was common among the last generation of 
European liberalism, in the Continental section of which, it still 
apparently predominates. Those who admit any limit to what a 
government may do, except in the case of such governments as 
they think ought not to exist, stand out as brilliant exceptions 
among the political thinkers of the Continent. A similar tone of 
sentiment might by this time have been prevalent in our own 
country, if the circumstances which for a time encouraged it had 
continued unaltered. 

But, in political and philosophical theories, as well as in persons, 
success discloses faults and infirmities which failure might have 
concealed from observation. The notion, that the people have no 
need to limit their power over themselves, might seem axiomatic, 
when popular government was a thing only dreamed about, or 
read of as having existed at some distant period of the past. 
Neither was that notion necessarily disturbed by such temporary 
aberrations as those of the French Revolution, the worst of which 
were the work of an usurping few, and which, in any case, belonged, 
not to the permanent working of popular institutions, but to a 
sudden and convulsive outbreak against monarchical and aristo- 
cratic despotism. In time, however, a democratic republic came to 



198 JOHN STUART MILL 

occupy a large portion of the earth's surface, and made itself felt 
as one of the most powerful members of the community of nations; 
and elective and responsible government became subject to the 
observations and criticisms which wait upon a great existing fact. 
It was now perceived that such phrases as "self-government," and 
"the power of the people over themselves," do not express the true 
state of the case. The "people" who exercise the power, are not 
always the same people with those over whom it is exercised, and 
the "self-government" spoken of, is not the government of each 
by himself, but of each by all the rest. The will of the people, more- 
over, practically means, the will of the most numerous or the most 
active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in 
making themselves accepted as the majority: the people, con- 
sequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and 
precautions are as much needed against this, as against any other 
abuse of power. The limitation, therefore, of the power of govern- 
ment over individuals, loses none of its importance when the 
holders of power are regularly accountable to the community, 
that is, to the strongest party therein. This view of things, recom- 
mending itself equally to the intelligence of thinkers and to the 
inclination of those important classes in European society to whose 
real or supposed interests democracy is adverse, has had no difficulty 
in establishing itself; and in political speculations "the tyranny of 
the majority" is now generally included among the evils against 
which society requires to be on its guard. 

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, 
and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through 
the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived 
that when society is itself the tyrant society collectively, over the 
separate individuals who compose it its means of tyrannizing are 
not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its 
political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own man- 
dates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any 
mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it 
practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of 
political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such 
extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating 



ON LIBERTY 199 

much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul 
itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate 
is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of 
the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society 
to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and 
practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to 
fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of 
any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all 
characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There 
is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with 
individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it 
against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of 
human affairs, as protection against political despotism. 

But though this proposition is not likely to be contested in 
general terms, the practical question, where to place the limit 
how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independ- 
ence and social control is a subject on which nearly everything 
remains to be done. All that makes existence valuable to any one, 
depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other 
people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed, by 
law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are 
not fit subjects for the operation of law. What these rules should 
be, is the principal question in human affairs; but if we except a 
few of the most obvious cases, it is one of those which least progress 
has been made in resolving. No two ages, and scarcely any two 
countries, have decided it alike; and the decision of one age or 
country is a wonder to another. Yet the people of any given age 
and country no more suspect any difficulty in it, than if it were a 
subject on which mankind had always been agreed. The rules which 
obtain among themselves appear to them self-evident and self- 
justifying. This all but universal illusion is one of the examples of 
the magical influence of custom, which is not only, as the proverb 
says, a second nature, but is continually mistaken for the first. The 
effect of custom, in preventing any misgiving respecting the rules 
of conduct which mankind impose on one another, is all the more 
complete because the subject is one on which it is not generally 
considered necessary that reasons should be given, either by one 



20O JOHN STUART MILL 

person to others, or by each to himself. People are accustomed to 
believe and have been encouraged in the belief by some who aspire 
to the character of philosophers, that their feelings, on subjects 
of this nature, are better than reasons, and render reasons un- 
necessary. The practical principle which guides them to their 
opinions on the regulation of human conduct, is the feeling in 
each person's mind that everybody should be required to act as 
he, and those with whom he sympathizes, would like them to act. 
No one, indeed, acknowledges to himself that his standard of 
judgment is his own liking; but an opinion on a point of conduct, 
not supported by reasons, can only count as one person's preference; 
and if the reasons, when given, are a mere appeal to a similar 
preference felt by other people, it is still only many people's liking 
instead of one. To an ordinary man, however, his own preference, 
thus supported, is not only a perfectly satisfactory reason, but the 
only one he generally has for any of his notions of morality, taste, 
or propriety, which are not expressly written in his religious creed; 
and his chief guide in the interpretation even of that. Men's 
opinions, accordingly, on what is laudable or blamable, are affected 
by all the multifarious causes which influence their wishes in regard 
to the conduct of others, and which are as numerous as those which 
determine their wishes on any other subject. Sometimes their 
reason at other times their prejudices or superstitions: often their 
social affections, not seldom their anti-social ones, their envy or 
jealousy, their arrogance or contemptuousness : but most commonly, 
their desires or fears for themselves their legitimate or illegitimate 
self-interest. Wherever there is an ascendant class, a large portion 
of the morality of the country emanates from its class interests, 
and its feelings of class superiority. The morality between Spartans 
and Helots, between planters and negroes, between princes and 
subjects, between nobles and roturiers, between men and women, 
has been for the most part the creation of these class interests and 
feelings: and the sentiments thus generated, react in turn upon 
the moral feelings of the members of the ascendant class, in their 
relations among themselves. Where, on the other hand, a class, 
formerly ascendant, has lost its ascendency, or where its ascendency 
is unpopular, the prevailing moral sentiments frequently bear the 



ON LIBERTY 2OI 

impress of an impatient dislike of superiority. Another grand de 
termining principle of the rules of conduct, both in act and for- 
bearance which have been enforced by law or opinion, has been 
the servility of mankind towards the supposed preferences or aver- 
sions of their temporal masters, or of their gods. This servility 
though essentially selfish, is not hypocrisy; it gives rise to per- 
fectly genuine sentiments of abhorrence; it made men burn ma- 
gicians and heretics. Among so many baser influences, the general 
and obvious interests of society have of course had a share, and a 
large one, in the direction of the moral sentiments: less, however, 
as a matter of reason, and on their own account, than as a con- 
sequence of the sympathies and antipathies which grew out of them : 
and sympathies and antipathies which had little or nothing to do 
with the interests of society, have made themselves felt in the 
establishment of moralities with quite as great force. 

The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion 
of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the 
rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law 
or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of 
society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things 
unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict 
with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather 
in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in 
questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to 
individuals. They preferred endeavouring to alter the feelings of 
mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves 
heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, 
with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground 
has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by 
any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief: a 
case instructive in many ways, and not least so as forming a most 
striking instance of the fallibility of what is called the moral sense: 
for the odium theologicum, in a sincere bigot, is one of the most 
unequivocal cases of moral feeling. Those who first broke the yoke 
of what called itself the Universal Church, were in general as little 
willing to permit difference of religious opinion as that church 
itself. But when the heat of the conflict was over, without giving 



202 JOHN STUART MILL 

a complete victory to any party, and each church or sect was re- 
duced to limit its hopes to retaining possession of the ground it 
already occupied; minorities, seeing that they had no chance of 
becoming majorities, were under the necessity of pleading to those 
whom they could not convert, for permission to differ. It is accord- 
ingly on this battle-field, almost solely, that the rights of the in- 
dividual against society have been asserted on broad grounds of 
principle, and the claim of society to exercise authority over dis- 
sentients openly controverted. The great writers to whom the world 
owes what religious liberty it possesses, have mostly asserted freedom 
of conscience as an indefeasible right, and denied absolutely that 
a human being is accountable to others for his religious belief. 
Yet so natural to mankind is intolerance in whatever they really 
care about, that religious freedom has hardly anywhere been prac- 
tically realized, except where religious indifference, which dislikes 
to have its peace disturbed by theological quarrels, has added its 
weight to the scale. In the minds of almost all religious persons, 
even in the most tolerant countries, the duty of toleration is admitted 
with tacit reserves. One person will bear with dissent in matters 
of church government, but not of dogma; another can tolerate 
everybody, short of a Papist or an Unitarian; another, every one 
who believes in revealed religion; a few extend their charity a 
little further, but stop at the belief in a God and in a future state. 
Wherever the sentiment of the majority is still genuine and in- 
tense, it is found to have abated little of its claim to be obeyed. 

In England, from the peculiar circumstances of our political 
history, though the yoke of opinion is perhaps heavier, that of law 
is lighter, than in most other countries of Europe; and there is 
considerable jealousy of direct interference, by the legislative or 
the executive power with private conduct; not so much from any 
just regard for the independence of the individual, as from the 
still subsisting habit of looking on the government as representing 
an opposite interest to the public. The majority have not yet learnt 
to feel the power of the government their power, or its opinions 
their opinions. When they do so, individual liberty will probably 
be as much exposed to invasion from the government, as it already 
is from public opinion. But, as yet, there is a considerable amount 



ON LIBERTY 203 

of feeling ready to be called forth against any attempt of the law to 
control individuals in things in which they have not hitherto been 
accustomed to be controlled by it; and this with very little dis- 
crimination as to whether the matter is, or is not, within the 
legitimate sphere of legal control; insomuch that the feeling, highly 
salutary on the whole, is perhaps quite as often misplaced as well 
grounded in the particular instances of its application. 

There is, in fact, no recognized principle by which the propriety 
or impropriety of government interference is customarily tested. 
People decide according to their personal preferences. Some, when- 
ever they see any good to be done, or evil to be remedied, would 
willingly instigate the government to undertake the business; while 
others prefer to bear almost any amount of social evil, rather than 
add one to the departments of human interests amenable to govern- 
mental control. And men range themselves on one or the other 
side in any particular case, according to this general direction of 
their sentiments; or according to the degree of interest which they 
feel in the particular thing which it is proposed that the government 
should do; or according to the belief they entertain that the govern- 
ment would, or would not, do it in the manner they prefer; but very 
rarely on account of any opinion to which they consistently adhere, 
as to what things are fit to be done by a government. And it seems 
to me that, in consequence of this absence of rule or principle, one 
side is at present as often wrong as the other; the interference of 
government is, with about equal frequency, improperly invoked and 
improperly condemned. 

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as 
entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the indi- 
vidual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means 
used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral 
coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for 
which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in inter- 
fering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self- 
protection. That the only purpose for which power can be right- 
fully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against 
his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical 
or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be com- 



204 JOHN STUART MILL 

pelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, 
because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, 
to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for 
remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, 
or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with 
any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from 
which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil 
to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which 
he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the 
part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, 
absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual 
is sovereign. 

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant 
to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. 
We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the 
age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. 
Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by 
others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against 
external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of con- 
sideration those backward states of society in which the race itself 
may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way 
of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice 
of means for overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of 
improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will 
attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable. Despotism is a 
legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, pro- 
vided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by 
actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application 
to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have 
become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. 
Until then, there is nothing for them but implicit obedience to an 
Akbar or a Charlemagne, if they are so fortunate as to find one. 
But as soon as mankind have attained the capacity of being guided 
to their own improvement by conviction or persuasion (a period 
long since reached in all nations with whom we need here concern 
ourselves) , compulsion, either in the direct form or in that of pains 






ON LIBERTY 205 

and penalties for non-compliance, is no longer admissible as a means 
to their own good, and justifiable only for the security of others. 
It is proper to state that I forego any advantage which could be 
derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right as a thing 
independent of utility. I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all 
ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded 
on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being. Those 
interests, I contend, authorize the subjection of individual spon- 
taneity to external control, only in respect to those actions of each, 
which concern the interest of other people. If any one does an act 
hurtful to others, there is a primd jade case for punishing him, by 
law, or, where legal penalties are not safely applicable, by general 
disapprobation. There are also many positive acts for the benefit 
of others, which he may rightfully be compelled to perform; such 
as, to give evidence in a court of justice; to bear his fair share in 
the common defence, or in any other joint work necessary to the 
interest of the society of which he enjoys the protection; and to 
perform certain acts of individual beneficence, such as saving a 
fellow-creature's life, or interposing to protect the defenceless against 
ill-usage, things which whenever it is obviously a man's duty to do, 
he may rightfully be made responsible to society for not doing. A 
person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his 
inaction, and in neither case he is justly accountable to them for the 
injury. The latter case, it is true, requires a much more cautious 
exercise of compulsion than the former. To make any one answer- 
able for doing evil to others, is the rule; to make him answerable 
for not preventing evil, is, comparatively speaking, the exception. 
Yet there are many cases clear enough and grave enough to justify 
that exception. In all things which regard the external relations of 
the individual, he is de jure amenable to those whose interests are 
concerned, and if need be, to society as their protector. There are 
often good reasons for not holding him to the responsibility; but 
these reasons must arise from the special expediencies of the case: 
either because it is a kind of case in which he is on the whole likely 
to act better, when left to his own discretion, than when controlled 
in any way in which society have it in their power to control him; 



206 JOHN STUART MILL 

or because the attempt to exercise control would produce other evils, 
greater than those which it would prevent. When such reasons as 
these preclude the enforcement of responsibility, the conscience of the 
agent himself should step into the vacant judgment-seat, and protect 
those interests of others which have no external protection; judging 
himself all the more rigidly, because the case does not admit of his 
being made accountable to the judgment of his fellow-creatures. 

But there is a sphere of action in which society, as distinguished 
from the individual, has, if any, only an indirect interest; com- 
prehending all that portion of a person's life and conduct which 
affects only himself, or, if it also affects others, only with their free, 
voluntary, and undeceived consent and participation. When I say 
only himself, I mean directly, and in the first instance: for what- 
ever affects himself, may affect others through himself; and the 
objection which may be grounded on this contingency, will receive 
consideration in the sequel. This, then, is the appropriate region of 
human liberty. It comprises, first, the inward domain of conscious- 
ness; demanding liberty of conscience, in the most comprehensive 
sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion 
and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, 
moral, or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing 
opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it 
belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns 
other people; but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty 
of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is 
practically inseparable from it. Secondly, the principle requires 
liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to 
suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such 
consequences as may follow; without impediment from our fellow- 
creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them even though 
they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong. Thirdly, 
from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the 
same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, 
for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons com- 
bining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived. 

No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, re- 
spected, is free, whatever may be its form of government; and 



ON LIBERTY 2OJ 

none is completely free in which they do not exist absolute and 
unqualified. The only freedom which deserves the name, is that 
of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not 
attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain 
it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, 
or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each 
other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each 
to live as seems good to the rest. 

Though this doctrine is anything but new, and, to some persons, 
may have the air of a truism, there is no doctrine which stands more 
directly opposed to the general tendency of existing opinion and 
practice. Society has expended fully as much effort in the attempt 
(according to its lights) to compel people to conform to its notions 
of personal, as of social excellence. The ancient commonwealths 
thought themselves entitled to practise, and the ancient philosophers 
countenanced, the regulation of every part of private conduct by 
public authority, on the ground that the State had a deep interest 
in the whole bodily and mental discipline of every one of its 
citizens, a mode of thinking which may have been admissible in 
small republics surrounded by powerful enemies, in constant peril 
of being subverted by foreign attack or internal commotion, and to 
which even a short interval of relaxed energy and self-command 
might so easily be fatal, that they could not afTord to wait for the 
salutary permanent effects of freedom. In the modern world, the 
greater size of political communities, and above all, the separation 
between the spiritual and temporal authority (which placed the 
direction of men's consciences in other hands than those which 
controlled their worldly affairs), prevented so great an interference 
by law in the details of private life; but the engines of moral re- 
pression have been wielded more strenuously against divergence 
from the reigning opinion in self-regarding, than even in social 
matters; religion, the most powerful of the elements which have 
entered into the formation of moral feeling, having almost always 
been governed either by the ambition of a hierarchy, seeking control 
over every department of human conduct, or by the spirit of Puritan- 
ism. And some of those modern reformers who have placed them- 
selves in strongest opposition to the religions of the past, have been 



2O8 JOHN STUART MILL 

noway behind either churches or sects in their assertion of the right 
of spiritual domination: M. Comte, in particular, whose social sys- 
tem, as unfolded in his Traite de Politique Positive, aims at estab- 
lishing (though by moral more than by legal appliances) a despotism 
of society over the individual, surpassing anything contemplated in 
the political ideal of the most rigid disciplinarian among the ancient 
philosophers. 

Apart from the peculiar tenets of individual thinkers, there is 
also in the world at large an increasing inclination to stretch unduly 
the powers of society over the individual, both by the force of opinion 
and even by that of legislation : and as the tendency of all the changes 
taking place in the world is to strengthen society, and diminish the 
power of the individual, this encroachment is not one of the evils 
which tend spontaneously to disappear, but, on the contrary, to 
grow more and more formidable. The disposition of mankind, 
whether as rulers or as fellow-citizens, to impose their own opinions 
and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others, is so energetically 
supported by some of the best and by some of the worst feelings 
incident to human nature, that it is hardly ever kept under re- 
straint by anything but want of power; and as the power is not 
declining, but growing, unless a strong barrier of moral conviction 
can be raised against the mischief, we must expect, in the present 
circumstances of the world, to see it increase. 

It will be convenient for the argument, if, instead of at once 
entering upon the general thesis, we confine ourselves in the first 
instance to a single branch of it, on which the principle here stated 
is, if not fully, yet to a certain point, recognized by the current 
opinions. This one branch is the Liberty of Thought: from which 
it is impossible to separate the cognate liberty of speaking and of 
writing. Although these liberties, to some considerable amount, 
form part of the political morality of all countries which profess 
religious toleration and free institutions, the grounds, both philo- 
sophical and practical, on which they rest, are perhaps not so familiar 
to the general mind, nor so thoroughly appreciated by many even of 
the leaders of opinion, as might have been expected. Those grounds, 
when rightly understood, are of much wider application than to 
only one division of the subject, and a thorough consideration of 



ON LIBERTY 20$ 

this part of the question will be found the best introduction to the 
remainder. Those to whom nothing which I am about to say will 
be new, may therefore, I hope, excuse me, if on a subject which for 
now three centuries has been so often discussed, I venture on one 
discussion more. 



CHAPTER II 
OF THE LIBERTY OF THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION 

THE time, it is to be hoped, is gone by when any defence 
would be necessary of the "liberty of the press" as one of 
the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government. No 
argument, we may suppose, can now be needed, against permitting 
a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, 
to prescribe opinions to them, and determine what doctrines or what 
arguments they shall be allowed to hear. This aspect of the question, 
besides, has been so often and so triumphantly enforced by preced- 
ing writers, that it needs not be specially insisted on in this place. 
Though the law of England, on the subject of the press, is as servile 
to this day as it was in the time of the Tudors, there is little danger 
of its being actually put in force against political discussion, except 
during some temporary panic, when fear of* insurrection drives 
ministers and judges from their propriety; 1 and, speaking generally, 
it is not, in constitutional countries, to be apprehended that the 
government, whether completely responsible to the people or hot, 
will often attempt to control the expression of opinion, except when 
in doing so it makes itself the organ of the general intolerance of 
the public. Let us suppose, therefore, that the government is entirely 
at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of 
coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. 

1 These words had scarcely been written, when, as if to give them an emphatic 
contradiction, occurred the Government Press Prosecutions of 1858. That ill-judged 
interference with the liberty of public discussion has not, however, induced me to 
alter a single word in the text, nor has it at all weakened my conviction that, mo- 
ments of panic excepted, the era of pains and penalties for political discussion has, 
in our own country, passed away. For, in the first place, the prosecutions were not 
persisted in; and, in the second, they were never, properly speaking, political pros- 
ecutions. The offence charged was not that of criticizing institutions, or the acts 
of persons of rulers, but of circulating what was deemed an immoral doctrine, the 
lawfulness of Tyrannicide. 

If the arguments of the present chapter are of any validity, there ought to exist 
the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any 
doctrine, however immoral it may be considered. It would, therefore, be irrelevant 



ON LIBERTY 211 

But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion, either 
by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. 
The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as 
noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public 
opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind minus one, 
were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary 
opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one 
person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing 
mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except 
to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply 
a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury 
was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil 
of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the 
human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who 
dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the 
opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging 
error for truth : if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, 
the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by 
its collision with error. 

It is necessary to consider separately these two hypotheses, each 
of which has a distinct branch of the argument corresponding to it. 
We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle 
is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil 
still. 

First: the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority 
may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny 
its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to 
decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person 

and out of place to examine here, whether the doctrine of Tyrannicide deserves that 
tide. I shall content myself with saying, that the subject has been at all times 
one of the open questions of morals; that the act of a private citizen in strik- 
ing down a criminal, who, by raising himself above the law, has placed himself 
beyond the reach of legal punishment or control, has been accounted by whole na- 
tions, and by some of the best and wisest of men, not a crime, but an act of exalted 
virtue; and that, right or wrong, it is not of the nature of assassination, but of civil 
war. As such, I hold that the instigation to it, in a specific case, may be a proper 
subject of punishment, but only if an overt act has followed, and at least a probable 
connection can be established between the act and the instigation. Even then, it is 
not a foreign government, but the very government assailed, which alone, in the 
exercise of self-defence, can legitimately punish attacks directed against its own 
existence. 



212 JOHN STUART MILL 

from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, 
because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty 
is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion 
is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed 
to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being com- 
mon. 

Unfortunately for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their 
fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgment, 
which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well 
knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any 
precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition 
that any opinion of which they feel very certain, may be one of the 
examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be 
liable. Absolute princes, or others who are accustomed to unlimited 
deference, usually feel this complete confidence in their own opinions 
on nearly all subjects. People more happily situated, who sometimes 
hear their opinions disputed, and are not wholly unused to be set 
right when they are wrong, place the same unbounded reliance 
only on such of their opinions as are shared by all who surround 
them, or to whom they habitually defer : for in proportion to a man's 
want of confidence in his own solitary judgment, does he usually 
repose, with implicit trust, on the infallibility of "the world" in 
general. And the world, to each individual, means the part of it 
with which he comes in contact; his party, his sect, his church, his 
class of society: the man may be called, by comparison, almost 
liberal and large-minded to whom it means anything so com- 
prehensive as his own country or his own age. Nor is his faith in this 
collective authority at all shaken by his being aware that other 
ages, countries, sects, churches, classes, and parties have thought, 
and even now think, the exact reverse. He devolves upon his own 
world the responsibility of being in the right against the dissentient 
worlds of other people; and it never troubles him that mere accident 
has decided which of these numerous worlds is the object of his 
reliance, and that the same causes which make him a Churchman 
in London, would have made him a Buddhist or a Confucian in 
Pekin. Yet it is as evident in itself as any amount of argument can 
make it, that ages are no more infallible than individuals; every 



ON LIBERTY 213 

age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed 
not only false but absurd; and it is as certain that many opinions, 
now general, will be rejected by future ages, as it is that many, once 
general, are rejected by the present. 

The objection likely to be made to this argument, would probably 
take some such form as the following. There is no greater assump- 
tion of infallibility in forbidding the propagation of error, than in 
any other thing which is done by public authority on its own judg- 
ment and responsibility. Judgment is given to men that they may 
use it. Because it may be used erroneously, are men to be told that 
they ought not to use it at all? To prohibit what they think per- 
nicious, is not claiming exemption from error, but fulfilling the duty 
incumbent on them, although fallible, of acting on their conscientious 
conviction. If we were never to act on our opinions, because those 
opinions may be wrong, we should leave all our interests uncared 
for, and all our duties unperformed. An objection which applies 
to all conduct can be no valid objection to any conduct in particular. 

It is the duty of governments, and of individuals, to form the 
truest opinions they can; to form them carefully, and never impose 
them upon others unless they are quite sure of being right. But 
when they are sure (such reasoners may say), it is not conscientious- 
ness but cowardice to shrink from acting on their opinions, and 
allow doctrines which they honestly think dangerous to the welfare 
of mankind, either in this life or in another, to be scattered abroad 
without restraint, because other people, in less enlightened times, 
have persecuted opinions now believed to be true. Let us take care, 
it may be said, not to make the same mistake : but governments and 
nations have made mistakes in other things, which are not denied 
to be fit subjects for the exercise of authority: they have laid on 
bad taxes, made unjust wars. Ought we therefore to lay on no 
taxes, and, under whatever provocation, make no wars? Men, 
and governments, must act to the best of their ability. There is no 
such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for 
the purposes of human life. We may, and must, assume our opinion 
to be true for the guidance of our own conduct: and it is assuming 
no more when we forbid bad men to pervert society by the propaga- 
tion of opinions which we regard as false and pernicious. 



214 JOHN STUART MILL 

I answer, that it is assuming very much more. There is the 
greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, 
with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and 
assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation. 
Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is 
the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for pur- 
poses of action; and on no other terms can a being with human 
faculties have any rational assurance of being right. 

When we consider either the history of opinion, or the ordinary 
conduct of human life, to what is it to be ascribed that the one and 
the other are no worse than they are ? Not certainly to the inherent 
force of the human understanding; for, on any matter not self- 
evident, there are ninety-nine persons totally incapable of judging 
of it, for one who is capable; and the capacity of the hundredth per- 
son is only comparative; for the majority of the eminent men of every 
past generation held many opinions now known to be erroneous, 
and did or approved numerous things which no one will now 
justify. Why is it, then, that there is on the whole a preponderance 
among mankind of rational opinions and rational conduct? If 
there really is this preponderance which there must be, unless 
human affairs are, and have always been, in an almost desperate 
state it is owing to a quality of the human mind, the source of 
everything respectable in man, either as an intellectual or as a moral 
being, namely, that his errors are corrigible. He is capable of rectify- 
ing his mistakes by discussion and experience. Not by experience 
alone. There must be discussion, to show how experience is to be 
interpreted. Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact 
and argument: but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on 
the mind, must be brought before it. Very few facts are able to tell 
their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. 
The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment, depend- 
ing on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, 
reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right 
are kept constantly at hand. In the case of any person whose judg- 
ment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Be- 
cause he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and 
conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could 



ON LIBERTY 215 

be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and 
expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what 
was fallacious. Because he has felt, that the only way in which a 
human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a 
subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every 
variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be 
looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired 
his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human 
intellect to become wise in any other manner. The steady habit of 
correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with 
those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carry- 
ing it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance 
on it: for, being cognizant of all that can, at least obviously, be 
said against him, and having taken up his position against all 
gainsayers knowing that he has sought for objections and diffi- 
culties, instead of avoiding them, and has shut out no light which 
can be thrown upon the subject from any quarter he has a right 
to think his judgment better than that of any person, or any multi- 
tude, who have not gone through a similar process. 

It is not too much to require that what the wisest of mankind, 
those who are best entitled to trust their own judgment, find neces- 
sary to warrant their relying on it, should be submitted to by that 
miscellaneous collection of a few wise and many foolish individuals, 
called the public. The most intolerant of churches, the Roman 
Catholic Church, even at the canonization of a saint, admits, and 
listens patiently to, a "devil's advocate." The holiest of men, it 
appears, cannot be admitted to posthumous honors, until all that 
the devil could say against him is known and weighed. If even 
the Newtonian philosophy were not permitted to be questioned, 
mankind could not feel as complete assurance of its truth as they 
now do. The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no 
safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world 
to prove them unfounded. If the challenge is not accepted, or is 
accepted and the attempt fails, we are far enough from certainty 
still; but we have done the best that the existing state of human 
reason admits of; we have neglected nothing that could give the 
truth a chance of reaching us: if the lists are kept open, we may 



2l6 JOHN STUART MILL 

hope that if there be a better truth, it will be found when the human 
mind is capable of receiving it; and in the meantime we may rely 
on having attained such approach to truth, as is possible in our 
own day. This is the amount of certainty attainable by a fallible 
being, and this the sole way of attaining it. 

Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments 
for free discussion, but object to their being "pushed to an extreme;" 
not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they 
are not good for any case. Strange that they should imagine that 
they are not assuming infallibility when they acknowledge that 
there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be 
doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should 
be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, be- 
cause they are certain that it is certain. To call any proposition cer- 
tain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if per- 
mitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, 
and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges 
without hearing the other side. 

In the present age which has been described as "destitute of 
faith, but terrified at scepticism," in which people feel sure, not 
so much that their opinions are true, as that they should not know 
what to do without them the claims of an opinion to be protected 
from public attack are rested not so much on its truth, as on its 
importance to society. There are, it is alleged, certain beliefs, so 
useful, not to say indispensable to well-being, that it is as much the 
duty of governments to uphold those beliefs, as to protect any other 
of the interests of society. In a case of such necessity, and so directly 
in the line of their duty, something less than infallibility may, it is 
maintained, warrant, and even bind, governments, to act on their 
own opinion, confirmed by the general opinion of mankind. It is 
also often argued, and still oftener thought, that none but bad men 
would desire to weaken these salutary beliefs; and there can be 
nothing wrong, it is thought, in restraining bad men, and prohibit- 
ing what only such men would wish to practise. This mode of 
thinking makes the justification of restraints on discussion not a 
question of the truth of doctrines, but of their usefulness; and flatters 
itself by that means to escape the responsibility of claiming to be an 



ON LIBERTY 217 

infallible judge of opinions. But those who thus satisfy themselves, 
do not perceive that the assumption of infallibility is merely shifted 
from one point to another. The usefulness of an opinion is itself 
matter of opinion : as disputable, as open to discussion and requiring 
discussion as much, as the opinion itself. There is the same need 
of an infallible judge of opinions to decide an opinion to be noxious, 
as to decide it to be false, unless the opinion condemned has full 
opportunity of defending itself. And it will not do to say that 
the heretic may be allowed to maintain the utility of harmlessness 
of his opinion, though forbidden to maintain its truth. The truth 
of an opinion is part of its utility. If we would know whether or 
not it is desirable that a proposition should be believed, is it pos- 
sible to exclude the consideration of whether or not it is true? In 
the opinion, not of bad men, but of the best men, no belief which 
is contrary to truth can be really useful: and can you prevent such 
men from urging that plea, when they are charged with culpability 
for denying some doctrine which they are told is useful, but which 
they believe to be false? Those who are on the side of received 
opinions, never fail to take all possible advantage of this plea; you 
do not find them handling the question of utility as if it could be 
completely abstracted from that of truth: on the contrary, it is, 
above all, because their doctrine is "the truth," that the knowledge 
or the belief of it is held to be so indispensable. There can be no 
fair discussion of the question of usefulness, when an argument so 
vital may be employed on one side, but not on the other. And in 
point of fact, when law or public feeling do not permit the truth 
of an opinion to be disputed, they are just as little tolerant of a 
denial of its usefulness. The utmost they allow is an extenuation 
of its absolute necessity or of the positive guilt of rejecting it. 

In order more fully to illustrate the mischief of denying a hearing 
to opinions because we, in our own judgment, have condemned 
them, it will be desirable to fix down the discussion to a concrete 
case; and I choose, by preference, the cases which are least favour- 
able to me in which the argument against freedom of opinion, both 
on the score of truth and on that of utility, is considered the 
strongest. Let the opinions impugned be the belief in a God and 
in a future state, or any of the commonly received doctrines of 



2l8 JOHN STUART MILL 

morality. To fight the battle on such ground, gives a great advantage 
to an unfair antagonist; since he will be sure to say (and many who 
have no desire to be unfair will say it internally), Are these the 
doctrines which you do not deem sufficiently certain to be taken 
under the protection of law? Is the belief in a God one of the 
opinions, to feel sure of which, you hold to be assuming infallibility ? 
But I must be permitted to observe, that it is not the feeling sure 
of a doctrine (be it what it may) which I call an assumption of 
infallibility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others, 
without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary 
side. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less, 
if put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions. However 
positive any one's persuasion may be, not only of the falsity, but of 
the pernicious consequences not only of the pernicious conse- 
quences, but (to adopt expressions which I altogether condemn) 
the immorality and impiety of an opinion; yet if, in pursuance of 
that private judgment, though backed by the public judgment of 
his country or his cotemporaries, he prevents the opinion from being 
heard in its defence, he assumes infallibility. And so far from the 
assumption being less objectionable or less dangerous because the 
opinion is called immoral or impious, this is the case of all others 
in which it is most fatal. These are exactly the occasions on which 
the men of one generation commit those dreadful mistakes which 
excite the astonishment and horror of posterity. It is among such 
that we find the instances memorable in history, when the arm of 
the law has been employed to root out the best men and the 
noblest doctrines; with deplorable success as to the men, though some 
of the doctrines have survived to be (as if in mockery) invoked, 
in defence of similar conduct towards those who dissent from them, 
or from their received interpretation. 

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a 
man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and 
public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. 
Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this 
man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him 
and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him 
as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the 



ON LIBERTY 

source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious 
utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maestri di color che sanno," the two 
headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged 
master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived whose 
fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but 
outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his 
native city illustrious was put to death by his countrymen, after a 
judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in de- 
nying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted 
(see the "Apologia") that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, 
in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." 
Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, 
honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably 
of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death 
as a criminal. 

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, 
the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would 
not be an anti-climax : the event which took place on Calvary rather 
more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the 
memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an 
impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries 
have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignomini- 
ously put to death, as what ? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely 
mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of 
what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they 
themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The 
feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable trans- 
actions, especially the latter of the two, render them extremely 
unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to 
all appearance, not bad men not worse than men most commonly 
are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or some- 
what more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic 
feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all 
times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life 
blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments 
when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas 
of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability 



22O JOHN STUART MILL 

quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of 
respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral 
sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at 
his conduct, if they had lived in his time and been born Jews, 
would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are 
tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs 
must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to 
remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul. 

Let us add one more example, the most striking of all, if the 
impressiveness of an error is measured by the wisdom and virtue 
of him who falls into it. If ever any one, possessed of power, had 
grounds for thinking himself the best and most enlightened among 
his cotemporaries, it was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Absolute 
monarch of the whole civilized world, he preserved through life 
not only the most unblemished justice, but what was less to be 
expected from his Stoical breeding, the tenderest heart. The few 
failings which are attributed to him, were all on the side of in- 
dulgence: while his writings, the highest ethical product of the 
ancient mind, differ scarcely perceptibly, if they differ at all, from the 
most characteristic teachings of Christ. This man, a better Christian 
in all but the dogmatic sense of the word, than almost any of the 
ostensibly Christian sovereigns who have since reigned, persecuted 
Christianity. Placed at the summit of all the previous attainments 
of humanity, with an open, unfettered intellect, and a character 
which led him of himself to embody in his moral writings the 
Christian ideal, he yet failed to see that Christianity was to be a 
good and not an evil to the world, with his duties to which he was 
so deeply penetrated. Existing society he knew to be in a deplorable 
state. But such as it was, he saw or thought he saw, that it was 
held together and prevented from being worse, by belief and rever- 
ence of the received divinities. As a ruler of mankind, he deemed it 
his duty not to suffer society to fall in pieces; and saw not how, if 
its existing ties were removed, any others could be formed which 
could again knit it together. The new religion openly aimed at 
dissolving these ties: unless, therefore, it was his duty to adopt 
that religion, it seemed to be his duty to put it down. Inasmuch 



ON LIBERTY 221 

then as the theology of Christianity did not appear to him true or 
of divine origin; inasmuch as this strange history of a crucified 
God was not credible to him, and a system which purported to 
rest entirely upon a foundation to him so wholly unbelievable, 
could not be foreseen by him to be that renovating agency which, 
after all abatements, it has in fact proved to be; the gentlest and 
most amiable of philosophers and rulers, under a solemn sense of 
duty, authorized the persecution of Christianity. To my mind this 
is one of the most tragical facts in all history. It is a bitter thought, 
how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have 
been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the 
empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of 
Constantine. But it would be equally unjust to him and false to 
truth, to deny, that no one plea which can be urged for punishing 
anti-Christian teaching, was wanting to Marcus Aurelius for punish- 
ing, as he did, the propagation of Christianity. No Christian more 
firmly believes that Atheism is false, and tends to the dissolution of 
society, than Marcus Aurelius believed the same things of Chris- 
tianity; he who, of all men then living, might have been thought 
the most capable of appreciating it. Unless any one who approves 
of punishment for the promulgation of opinions, flatters himself 
that he is a wiser and better man than Marcus Aurelius more 
deeply versed in the wisdom of his time, more elevated in his 
intellect above it more earnest in his search for truth, or more 
single-minded in his devotion to it when found; let him abstain 
from that assumption of the joint infallibility of himself and the 
multitude, which the great Antoninus made with so unfortunate a 
result. 

Aware of the impossibility of defending the use of punishment 
for restraining irreligious opinions, by any argument which will 
not justify Marcus Antoninus, the enemies of religious freedom, 
when hard pressed, occasionally accept this consequence, and say, 
with Dr. Johnson, that the persecutors of Christianity were in the 
right; that persecution is an ordeal through which truth ought to 
pass, and always passes successfully, legal penalties being, in the 
end, powerless against truth, though sometimes beneficially effective 



222 JOHN STUART MILL 

against mischievous errors. This is a form of the argument for 
religious intolerance, sufficiently remarkable not to be passed without 
notice. 

A theory which maintains that truth may justifiably be persecuted 
because persecution cannot possibly do it any harm, cannot be 
charged with being intentionally hostile to the reception of new 
truths; but we cannot commend the generosity of its dealing with 
the persons to whom mankind are indebted for them. To discover 
to the world something which deeply concerns it, and of which it 
was previously ignorant; to prove to it that it had been mistaken 
on some vital point of temporal or spiritual interest, is as important 
a service as a human being can render to his fellow-creatures, and 
in certain cases, as in those of the early Christians and of the Re- 
formers, those who think with Dr. Johnson believe it to have been 
the most precious gift which could be bestowed on mankind. That 
the authors of such splendid benefits should be requited by martyr- 
dom; that their reward should be to be dealt with as the vilest of 
criminals, is not, upon this theory, a deplorable error and mis- 
fortune, for which humanity should mourn in sackcloth and ashes, 
but the normal and justifiable state of things. The propounder of 
a new truth, according to this doctrine, should stand, as stood, in 
the legislation of the Locrians, the proposer of a new law, with a 
halter round his neck, to be instantly tightened if the public 
assembly did not, on hearing his reasons, then and there adopt his 
proposition. People who defend this mode of treating benefactors, 
can not be supposed to set much value on the benefit; and I believe 
this view of the subject is mostly confined to the sort of persons 
who think that new truths may have been desirable once, but that 
we have had enough of them now. 

But, indeed, the dictum that truth always triumphs over persecu- 
tion, is one of those pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one 
another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience 
refutes. History teems with instances of truth put down by persecu- 
tion. If not suppressed forever, it may be thrown back for centuries. 
To speak only of religious opinions: the Reformation broke out 
at least twenty times before Luther, and was put down. Arnold of 
Brescia was put down. Fra Dolcino was put down. Savonarola was 



ON LIBERTY 223 

put down. The Albigeois were put down. The Vaudois were put 
down. The Lollards were put down. The Hussites were put down. 
Even after the era of Luther, wherever persecution was persisted 
in, it was successful. In Spain, Italy, Flanders, the Austrian empire, 
Protestantism was rooted out; and, most likely, would have been 
so in England, had Queen Mary lived, or Queen Elizabeth died. 
Persecution has always succeeded, save where the heretics were too 
strong a party to be effectually persecuted. No reasonable person can 
doubt that Christianity might have been extirpated in the Roman 
empire. It spread, and became predominant, because the persecu- 
tions were only occasional, lasting but a short time, and separated 
by long intervals of almost undisturbed propagandism. It is a piece 
of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent 
power denied to error, of prevailing against the dungeon and the 
stake. Men are not more zealous for truth than they often are for 
error, and a sufficient application of legal or even of social penalties 
will generally succeed in stopping the propagation of either. The 
real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion 
is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in 
the course of ages there will generally be found persons to redis- 
cover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from 
favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made 
such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it. 
It will be said, that we do not now put to death the introducers 
of new opinions: we are not like our fathers who slew the prophets, 
we even build sepulchres to them. It is true we no longer put heretics 
to death; and the amount of penal infliction which modern feeling 
would probably tolerate, even against the most obnoxious opinions, 
is not sufficient to extirpate them. But let us not flatter ourselves 
that we are yet free from the stain even of legal persecution. Penalties 
for opinion, or at least for its expression, still exist by law; and their 
enforcement is not, even in these times, so unexampled as to make 
it at all incredible that they may some day be revived in full force. 
In the year 1857, at the summer assizes of the county of Cornwall, 
an unfortunate man, 2 said to be of unexceptionable conduct in all 

2 Thomas Pooley, Bodmin Assizes, July 31, 1857. In December following, he 
received a free pardon from the Crown. 



224 JOHN STUART MILL 

relations of life, was sentenced to twenty-one months imprisonment, 
for uttering, and writing on a gate, some offensive words concern- 
ing Christianity. Within a month of the same time, at the Old 
Bailey, two persons, on two separate occasions, 3 were rejected as 
jurymen, and one of them grossly insulted by the judge and one 
of the counsel, because they honestly declared that they had no 
theological belief; and a third, a foreigner, 4 for the same reason, 
was denied justice against a thief. This refusal of redress took 
place in virtue of the legal doctrine, that no person can be allowed 
to give evidence in a court of justice, who does not profess belief 
in a God (any god is sufficient) and in a future state; which is 
equivalent to declaring such persons to be outlaws, excluded from 
the protection of the tribunals; who may not only be robbed or 
assaulted with impunity, if no one but themselves, or persons of 
similar opinions, be present, but any one else may be robbed or 
assaulted with impunity, if the proof of the fact depends on their 
evidence. The assumption on which this is grounded, is that the 
oath is worthless, of a person who does not believe in a future state; 
a proposition which betokens much ignorance of history in those 
who assent to it (since it is historically true that a large proportion 
of infidels in all ages have been persons of distinguished integrity 
and honor); and would be maintained by no one who had the 
smallest conception how many of the persons in greatest repute 
with the world, both for virtues and for attainments, are well known, 
at least to their intimates, to be unbelievers. The rule, besides, is 
suicidal, and cuts away its own foundation. Under pretence that 
atheists must be liars, it admits the testimony of all atheists who 
are willing to lie, and rejects only those who brave the obloquy of 
publicly confessing a detested creed rather than affirm a falsehood. 
A rule thus self-convicted of absurdity so far as regards its professed 
purpose, can be kept in force only as a badge of hatred, a relic of per- 
secution; a persecution, too, having the peculiarity that the qualifica- 
tion for undergoing it is the being clearly proved not to deserve it. 
The rule, and the theory it implies, are hardly less insulting to 
believers than to infidels. For if he who does not believe in a future 

3 George Jacob Holyoake, August 17, 1857; Edward Truelove, July, 1857. 

4 Baron de Gleichen, Marlborough Street Police Court, August 4, 1857. 



ON LIBERTY 225 

state necessarily lies, it follows that they who do believe are only 
prevented from lying, if prevented they are, by the fear of helL 
We will not do the authors and abettors of the rule the injury of 
supposing, that the conception which they have formed of Christian 
virtue is drawn from their own consciousness. 

These, indeed, are but rags and remnants of persecution, and may 
be thought to be not so much an indication of the wish to persecute, 
as an example of that very frequent infirmity of English minds, 
which makes them take a preposterous pleasure in the assertion of a 
bad principle, when they are no longer bad enough to desire to carry 
it really into practice. But unhappily there is no security in the 
state of the public mind, that the suspension of worse forms of 
legal persecution, which has lasted for about the space of a genera- 
tion, will continue. In this age the quiet surface of routine is as 
often ruffled by attempts to resuscitate past evils, as to introduce 
new benefits. What is boasted of at the present time as the revival 
of religion, is always, in narrow and uncultivated minds, at least as 
much the revival of bigotry; and where there is the strongest per- 
manent leaven of intolerance in the feelings of a people, which at 
all times abides in the middle classes of this country, it needs but 
little to provoke them into actively persecuting those whom they 
have never ceased to think proper objects of persecution. 5 For it is 

5 Ample warning may be drawn from the large infusion of the passions of a 
persecutor, which mingled with the general display of the worst parts of our na- 
tional character on the occasion of the Sepoy insurrection. The ravings of fanatics 
or charlatans from the pulpit may be unworthy of notice; but the heads of the 
Evangelical party have announced as their principle, for the government of Hindoos 
and Mahomedans, that no schools be supported by public money in which the Bible 
is not taught, and by necessary consequence that no public employment be given 
to any but real or pretended Christians. An Under-Secretary of State, in a speech 
delivered to his constituents on the i2th of November, 1857, is reported to have 
said: "Toleration of their faith" (the faith of a hundred millions of British subjects), 
"the superstition which they called religion, by the British Government, had had the 
effect of retarding the ascendancy of the British name, and preventing the salutary 
growth of Christianity. . . . Toleration was the great corner-stone of the religious 
liberties of this country; but do not let them abuse that precious word toleration. 
As he understood it, it meant the complete liberty to all, freedom of worship, among 
Christians, who worshipped upon the same foundation. It meant toleration of all 
sects and denominations of Christians who believed in the one mediation." I desire 
to call attention to the fact, that a man who has been deemed fit to fill a high office 
in the government of this country, under a liberal Ministry, maintains the doctrine 
that all who do not believe in the divinity of Christ are beyond the pale of toleration. 
Who, after this imbecile display, can indulge the illusion that religious persecution 
has passed away, never to return? 



226 JOHN STUART MILL 

this it is the opinions men entertain, and the feelings they cherish, 
respecting those who disown the beliefs they deem important, which 
makes this country not a place of mental freedom. For a long time 
past, the chief mischief of the legal penalties is that they strengthen 
the social stigma. It is that stigma which is really effective, and 
so effective is it, that the profession of opinions which are under 
the ban of society is much less common in England, than is, in 
many other countries, the avowal of those which incur risk of 
judicial punishment. In respect to all persons but those whose 
pecuniary circumstances make them independent of the good will 
of other people, opinion, on this subject, is as efficacious as law; 
men might as well be imprisoned, as excluded from the means of 
earning their bread. Those whose bread is already secured, and who 
desire no favors from men in power, or from bodies of men, or from 
the public, have nothing to fear from the open avowal of any 
opinions, but to be ill-thought of and ill-spoken of, and this it ought 
not to require a very heroic mould to enable them to bear. There is 
no room for any appeal ad misericordiam in behalf of such persons. 
But though we do not now inflict so much evil on those who think 
differently from us, as it was formerly our custom to do, it may be 
that we do ourselves as much evil as ever by our treatment of them. 
Socrates was put to death, but the Socratic philosophy rose like the 
sun in heaven, and spread its illumination over the whole intel- 
lectual firmament. Christians were cast to the lions, but the Chris- 
tian Church grew up a stately and spreading tree, overtopping the 
older and less vigorous growths, and stifling them by its shade. 
Our merely social intolerance, kills no one, roots out no opinions, 
but induces men to disguise them, or to abstain from any active 
effort for their diffusion. With us, heretical opinions do not per- 
ceptibly gain or even lose, ground in each decade or generation; 
they never blaze out far and wide, but continue to smoulder in the 
narrow circles of thinking and studious persons among whom they 
originate, without ever lighting up the general affairs of mankind 
with either a true or a deceptive light. And thus is kept up a state 
of things very satisfactory to some minds, because, without the 
unpleasant process of fining or imprisoning anybody, it maintains 
all prevailing opinions outwardly undisturbed, while it does not 



ON LIBERTY 227 

absolutely interdict the exercise of reason by dissentients afflicted 
with the malady of thought. A convenient plan for having peace in 
the intellectual world, and keeping all things going on therein very 
much as they do already. But the price paid for this sort of in- 
tellectual pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage 
of the human mind. A state of things in which a large portion 
of the most active and inquiring intellects find it advisable to keep 
the genuine principles and grounds of their convictions within their 
own breasts, and attempt, in what they address to the public, to fit 
as much as they can of their own conclusions to premises which 
they have internally renounced, cannot send forth the open, fearless 
characters, and logical, consistent intellects who once adorned the 
thinking world. The sort of men who can be looked for under it, 
are either mere conformers to commonplace, or time-servers for 
truth whose arguments on all great subjects are meant for their 
hearers, and are not those which have convinced themselves. Those 
who avoid this alternative, do so by narrowing their thoughts and 
interests to things which can be spoken of without venturing within 
the region of principles, that is, to small practical matters, which 
would come right of themselves, if but the minds of mankind were 
strengthened and enlarged, and which will never be made effectually 
right until then; while that which would strengthen and enlarge 
men's minds, free and daring speculation on the highest subjects, 
is abandoned. 

Those in whose eyes this reticence on the part of heretics is no 
evil, should consider in the first place, that in consequence of it there 
is never any fair and thorough discussion of heretical opinions; and 
that such of them as could not stand such a discussion, though they 
may be prevented from spreading, do not disappear. But it is not 
the minds of heretics that are deteriorated most, by the ban placed 
on all inquiry which does not end in the orthodox conclusions. The 
greatest harm done is to those who are not heretics, and whose 
whole mental development is cramped, and their reason cowed, by 
the fear of heresy. Who can compute what the world loses in the 
multitude of promising intellects combined with timid characters, 
who dare not follow out any bold, vigorous, independent train 
of thought, lest it should land them in something which would 



228 JOHN STUART MILL 

admit of being considered irreligious or immoral ? Among them we 
may occasionally see some man of deep conscientiousness, and subtile 
and refined understanding, who spends a life in sophisticating with 
an intellect which he cannot silence, and exhausts the resources of 
ingenuity in attempting to reconcile the promptings of his conscience 
and reason with orthodoxy, which yet he does not, perhaps, to the 
end succeed in doing. No one can be a great thinker who does not 
recognize, that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect 
to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by 
the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for 
himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them 
because they do not suffer themselves to think. Not that it is 
solely, or chiefly, to form great thinkers, that freedom of thinking 
is required. On the contrary, it is as much, and even more indis- 
pensable, to enable average human beings to attain the mental 
stature which they are capable of. There have been, and may again 
be, great individual thinkers, in a general atmosphere of mental 
slavery. But there never has been, nor ever will be, in that atmos- 
phere, an intellectually active people. Where any people has made 
a temporary approach to such a character, it has been because the 
dread of heterodox speculation was for a time suspended. Where 
there is a tacit convention that principles are not to be disputed; 
where the discussion of the greatest questions which can occupy 
humanity is considered to be closed, we cannot hope to find that 
generally high scale of mental activity which has made some periods 
of history so remarkable. Never when controversy avoided the 
subjects which are large and important enough to kindle enthusiasm, 
was the mind of a people stirred up from its foundations, and the 
impulse given which raised even persons of the most ordinary 
intellect to something of the dignity of thinking beings. Of such 
we have had an example in the condition of Europe during the times 
immediately following the Reformation; another, though limited 
to the Continent and to a more cultivated class, in the speculative 
movement of the latter half of the eighteenth century; and a third, 
of still briefer duration, in the intellectual fermentation of Germany 
during the Goethian and Fichtean period. These periods differed 
widely in the particular opinions which they developed; but were 



ON LIBERTY 

alike in this, that during all three the yoke of authority was broken. 
In each, an old mental despotism had been thrown off, and no new 
one had yet taken its place. The impulse given at these three periods 
has made Europe what it now is. Every single improvement which 
has taken place either in the human mind or in institutions, may 
be traced distinctly to one or other of them. Appearances have for 
some time indicated that all three impulses are well-nigh spent; 
and we can expect no fresh start, until we again assert our mental 
freedom. 

Let us now pass to the second division of the argument, and dis- 
missing the supposition that any of the received opinions may be 
false, let us assume them to be true, and examine into the worth 
of the manner in which they are likely to be held, when their truth 
is not freely and openly canvassed. However unwillingly a person 
who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his 
opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration 
that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fear- 
lessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth. 

There is a class of persons (happily not quite so numerous as 
formerly) who think it enough if a person assents undoubtingly 
to what they think true, though he has no knowledge whatever of 
the grounds of the opinion, and could not make a tenable defence 
of it against the most superficial objections. Such persons, if they 
can once get their creed taught from authority, naturally think that 
no good, and some harm, comes of its being allowed to be ques- 
tioned. Where their influence prevails, they make it nearly im- 
possible for the received opinion to be rejected wisely and con- 
siderately, though it may still be rejected rashly and ignorantly; for 
to shut out discussion entirely is seldom possible, and when it once 
gets in, beliefs not grounded on conviction are apt to give way be- 
fore the slightest semblance of an argument. Waiving, however, 
this possibility assuming that the true opinion abides in the mind, 
but abides as a prejudice, a belief independent of, and proof against, 
argument this is not the way in which truth ought to be held 
by a rational being. This is not knowing the truth. Truth, thus 
held, is but one superstition the more, accidentally clinging to the 
words which enunciate a truth. 



230 JOHN STUART MILL 

If the intellect and judgment of mankind ought to be cultivated, 
a thing which Protestants at least do not deny, on what can these 
faculties be more appropriately exercised by any one, than on the 
things which concern him so much that it is considered necessary 
for him to hold opinions on them ? If the cultivation of the under- 
standing consists in one thing more than in another, it is surely in 
learning the grounds of one's own opinions. Whatever people 
believe, on subjects on which it is of the first importance to believe 
rightly, they ought to be able to defend against at least the common 
objections. But, some one may say, "Let them be taught the grounds 
of their opinions. It does not follow that opinions must be merely 
parroted because they are never heard controverted. Persons who 
learn geometry do not simply commit the theorems to memory, 
but understand and learn likewise the demonstrations; and it would 
be absurd to say that they remain ignorant of the grounds of geo- 
metrical truths, because they never hear any one deny, and attempt 
to disprove them." Undoubtedly: and such teaching suffices on a 
subject like mathematics, where there is nothing at all to be said 
on the wrong side of the question. The peculiarity of the evidence 
of mathematical truths is, that all the argument is on one side. 
There are no objections, and no answers to objections. But on every 
subject on which difference of opinion is possible, the truth depends 
on a balance to be struck between two sets of conflicting reasons. 
Even in natural philosophy, there is always some other explanation 
possible of the same facts; some geocentric theory instead of helio- 
centric, some phlogiston instead of oxygen; and it has to be shown 
why that other theory cannot be the true one: and until this is 
shown and until we know how it is shown, we do not understand 
the grounds of our opinion. But when we turn to subjects infinitely 
more complicated, to morals, religion, politics, social relations, and 
the business of life, three-fourths of the arguments for every dis- 
puted opinion consist in dispelling the appearances which favor some 
opinion different from it. The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, 
has left it on record that he always studied his adversary's case with 
as great, if not with still greater, intensity than even his own. What 
Cicero practised as the means of forensic success, requires to be 
imitated by all who study any subject in order to arrive at the truth. 



ON LIBERT* 231 

He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. 
His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute 
them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the 
opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, 
he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational 
position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he 
contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, 
like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most in- 
clination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of 
adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and 
accompanied by what they offer as refutations. This is not the way 
to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with 
his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who 
actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their 
very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible 
and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty 
which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of, 
else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth 
which meets and removes that difficulty. Ninety-nine in a hundred 
of what are called educated men are in this condition, even of those 
who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be 
true, but it might be false for anything they know : they have never 
thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think 
differently from them, and considered what such persons may have 
to say; and consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the 
word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess. They do 
not know those parts of it which explain and justify the remainder; 
the considerations which show that a fact which seemingly conflicts 
with another is reconcilable with it, or that, of two apparently strong 
reasons, one and not the other ought to be preferred. All that part 
of the truth which turns the scale, and decides the judgment of a 
completely informed mind, they are strangers to; nor is it ever 
really known, but to those who have attended equally and im- 
partially to both sides, and endeavored to see the reasons of both in 
the strongest light. So essential is this discipline to a real under- 
standing of moral and human subjects, that if opponents of all 
important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them 



232 JOHN STUART MILL 

and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most 
skilful devil's advocate can conjure up. 

To abate the force of these considerations, an enemy of free dis- 
cussion may be supposed to say, that there is no necessity for man- 
kind in general to know and understand all that can be said against 
or for their opinions by philosophers and theologians. That it is 
not needful for common men to be able to expose all the misstate- 
ments or fallacies of an ingenious opponent. That it is enough if 
there is always somebody capable of answering them, so that nothing 
likely to mislead uninstructed persons remains unrefuted. That 
simple minds, having been taught the obvious grounds of the 
truths inculcated on them, may trust to authority for the rest, and 
being aware that they have neither knowledge nor talent to resolve 
every difficulty which can be raised, may repose in the assurance that 
all those which have been raised have been or can be answered, by 
those who are specially trained to the task. 

Conceding to this view of the subject the utmost that can be 
claimed for it by those most easily satisfied with the amount of 
understanding of truth which ought to accompany the belief of it; 
even so, the argument for free discussion is no way weakened. For 
even this doctrine acknowledges that mankind ought to have a 
rational assurance that all objections have been satisfactorily an- 
swered; and how are they to be answered if that which requires to 
be answered is not spoken? or how can the answer be known to 
be satisfactory, if the objectors have no opportunity of showing that 
it is unsatisfactory? If not the public, at least the philosophers and 
theologians who are to resolve the difficulties, must make themselves 
familiar with those difficulties in their most puzzling form; and this 
cannot be accomplished unless they are freely stated, and placed in 
the most advantageous light which they admit of. The Catholic 
Church has its own way of dealing with this embarrassing problem. 
It makes a broad separation between those who can be permitted to 
receive its doctrines on conviction, and those who must accept them 
on trust. Neither, indeed, are allowed any choice as to what they 
will accept; but the clergy, such at least as can be fully confided in, 
may admissibly and meritoriously make themselves acquainted with 
the arguments of opponents, in order to answer them, and may, 



ON LIBERTY 233 

therefore, read heretical books; the laity, not unless by special per- 
mission, hard to be obtained. This discipline recognizes a knowledge 
of the enemy's case as beneficial to the teachers, but finds means, 
consistent with this, of denying it to the rest of the world: thus 
giving to the elite more mental culture, though not more mental 
freedom, than it allows to the mass. By this device it succeeds in 
obtaining the kind of mental superiority which its purposes require; 
for though culture without freedom never made a large and liberal 
mind, it can make a clever nisi prius advocate of a cause. But in 
countries professing Protestantism, this resource is denied; since 
Protestants hold, at least in theory, that the responsibility for the 
choice of a religion must be borne by each for himself, and cannot 
be thrown off upon teachers. Besides, in the present state of the 
world, it is practically impossible that writings which are read by 
the instructed can be kept from the uninstructed. If the teachers 
of mankind are to be cognizant of all that they ought to know, 
everything must be free to be written and published without 
restraint. 

If, however, the mischievous operation of the absence of free dis- 
cussion, when the received opinions are true, were confined to 
leaving men ignorant of the grounds of those opinions, it might be 
thought that this, if an intellectual, is no moral evil, and does not 
affect the worth of the opinions, regarded in their influence on the 
character. The fact, however, is, that not only the grounds of the 
opinion are forgotten in the absence of discussion, but too often 
the meaning of the opinion itself. The words which convey it, 
cease to suggest ideas, or suggest only a small portion of those they 
were originally employed to communicate. Instead of a vivid con- 
ception and a living belief, there remain only a few phrases retained 
by rote; or, if any part, the shell and husk only of the meaning is 
retained, the finer essence being lost. The great chapter in human 
history which this fact occupies and fills, cannot be too earnestly 
studied and meditated on. 

It is illustrated in the experience of almost all ethical doctrines 
and religious creeds. They are all full of meaning and vitality to 
those who originate them, and to the direct disciples of the orig- 
inators. Their meaning continues to be felt in undiminished strength, 



234 JOHN STUART MILL 

and is perhaps brought out into even fuller consciousness, so long 
as the struggle lasts to give the doctrine or creed an ascendency 
over other creeds. At last it either prevails, and becomes the general 
opinion, or its progress stops; it keeps possession of the ground it 
has gained, but ceases to spread further. When either of these 
results has become apparent, controversy on the subject flags, and 
gradually dies away. The doctrine has taken its place, if not as a 
received opinion, as one of the admitted sects or divisions of opinion : 
those who hold it have generally inherited, not adopted it; and con- 
version from one of these doctrines to another, being now an excep- 
tional fact, occupies little place in the thoughts of their professors. 
Instead of being, as at first, constantly on the alert either to defend 
themselves against the world, or to bring the world over to them, 
they have subsided into acquiescence, and neither listen, when they 
can help it, to arguments against their creed, nor trouble dissentients 
(if there be such) with arguments in its favor. From this time may 
usually be dated the decline in the living power of the doctrine. We 
often hear the teachers of all creeds lamenting the difficulty of 
keeping up in the minds of believers a lively apprehension of the 
truth which they nominally recognize, so that it may penetrate the 
feelings, and acquire a real mastery over the conduct. No such 
difficulty is complained of while the creed is still fighting for its 
existence: even the weaker combatants then know and feel what 
they are fighting for, and the difference between it and other doc- 
trines; and in that period of every creed's existence, not a few per- 
sons may be found, who have realized its fundamental principles 
in all the forms of thought, have weighed and considered them in 
all their important bearings, and have experienced the full effect on 
the character, which belief in that creed ought to produce in a mind 
thoroughly imbued with it. But when it has come to be an hereditary 
creed, and to be received passively, not actively when the mind is 
no longer compelled, in the same degree as at first, to exercise its 
vital powers on the questions which its belief presents to it, there 
is a progressive tendency to forget all of the belief except the for- 
mularies, or to give it a dull and torpid assent, as if accepting it on 
trust dispensed with the necessity of realizing it in consciousness, 
or testing it by personal experience; until it almost ceases to connect 



ON LIBERTY 235 

itself at all with the inner life of the human being. Then are seen the 
cases, so frequent in this age of the world as almost to form the 
majority, in which the creed remains as it were outside the mind, 
encrusting and petrifying it against all other influences addressed 
to the higher parts of our nature; manifesting its power by not suffer- 
ing any fresh and living conviction to get in, but itself doing nothing 
for the mind or heart, except standing sentinel over them to keep 
them vacant. 

To what an extent doctrines intrinsically fitted to make the 
deepest impression upon the mind may remain in it as dead beliefs, 
without being ever realized in the imagination, the feelings, or the 
understanding, is exemplified by the manner in which the majority 
of believers hold the doctrines of Christianity. By Christianity I 
here mean what is accounted such by all churches and sects the 
maxims and precepts contained in the New Testament. These 
are considered sacred, and accepted as laws, by all professing Chris- 
tians. Yet it is scarcely too much to say that not one Christian in a 
thousand guides or tests his individual conduct by reference to 
those laws. The standard to which he does refer it, is the custom 
of his nation, his class, or his religious profession. He has thus, 
on the one hand, a collection of ethical maxims, which he believes 
to have been vouchsafed to him by infallible wisdom as rules for his 
government; and on the other, a set of every-day judgments and 
practices, which go a certain length with some of those maxims, 
not so great a length with others, stand in direct opposition to some, 
and are, on the whole, a compromise between the Christian creed 
and the interests and suggestions of worldly life. To the first of 
these standards he gives his homage; to the other his real allegiance. 
All Christians believe that the blessed are the poor and humble, 
and those who are ill-used by the world; that it is easier for a camel 
to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the 
kingdom of heaven; that they should judge not, lest they be judged; 
that they should swear not at all; that they should love their neighbor 
as themselves; that if one take their cloak, they should give him 
their coat also; that they should take no thought for the morrow; 
that if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have 
and give it to the poor. They are not insincere when they say that 



236 JOHN STUART MILL 

they believe these things. They do believe them, as people believe 
what they have always heard lauded and never discussed. But in 
the sense of that living belief which regulates conduct, they believe 
these doctrines just up to the point to which it is usual to act upon 
them. The doctrines in their integrity are serviceable to pelt ad- 
versaries with; and it is understood that they are to be put forward 
(when possible) as the reasons for whatever people do that they 
think laudable. But any one who reminded them that the maxims 
require an infinity of things which they never even think of doing 
would gain nothing but to be classed among those very unpopular 
characters who affect to be better than other people. The doctrines 
have no hold on ordinary believers are not a power in their minds. 
They have an habitual respect for the sound of them, but no feeling 
which spreads from the words to the things signified, and forces 
the mind to take them in, and make them conform to the formula. 
Whenever conduct is concerned, they look round for Mr. A and B 
to direct them how far to go in obeying Christ. 

Now we may be well assured that the case was not thus, but far 
otherwise, with the early Christians. Had it been thus, Christianity 
never would have expanded from an obscure sect of the despised 
Hebrews into the religion of the Roman empire. When their 
enemies said, "See how these Christians love one another" (a remark 
not likely to be made by anybody now), they assuredly had a much 
livelier feeling of the meaning of their creed than they have ever 
had since. And to this cause, probably, it is chiefly owing that 
Christianity now makes so little progress in extending its domain, 
and after eighteen centuries, is still nearly confined to Europeans 
and the descendants of Europeans. Even with the strictly religious, 
who are much in earnest about their doctrines, and attach a greater 
amount of meaning to many of them than people in general, it 
commonly happens that the part which is thus comparatively active 
in their minds is that which was made by Calvin, or Knox, or some 
such person much nearer in character to themselves. The sayings 
of Christ coexist passively in their minds, producing hardly any 
effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable 
and bland. There are many reasons, doubtless, why doctrines which 
are the badge of a sect retain more of their vitality than those com- 



ON LIBERTY 237 

mon to all recognized sects, and why more pains are taken by 
teachers to keep their meaning alive; but one reason certainly is, 
that the peculiar doctrines are more questioned, and have to be 
oftener defended against open gainsayers. Both teachers and learners 
go to sleep at their post, as soon as there is no enemy in the field. 

The same thing holds true, generally speaking, of all traditional 
doctrines those of prudence and knowledge of life, as well as of 
morals or religion. All languages and literatures are full of general 
observations on life, both as to what it is, and how to conduct oneself 
in it; observations which everybody knows, which everybody repeats, 
or hears with acquiescence, which are received as truisms, yet of 
which most people first truly learn the meaning, when experience, 
generally of a painful kind, has made it a reality to them. How 
often, when smarting under some unforeseen misfortune or dis- 
appointment, does a person call to mind some proverb or common 
saying familiar to him all his life, the meaning of which, if he had 
ever before felt it as he does now, would have saved him from the 
calamity. There are indeed reasons for this, other than the absence 
of discussion: there are many truths of which the full meaning 
cannot be realized, until personal experience has brought it home. 
But much more of the meaning even of these would have been 
understood, and what was understood would have been far more 
deeply impressed on the mind, if the man had been accustomed to 
hear it argued pro and con by people who did understand it. The 
fatal tendency of mankind to leave oft thinking about a thing when 
it is no longer doubtful, is the cause of half their errors. A contem- 
porary author has well spoken of "the deep slumber of a decided 
opinion." 

But what! (it may be asked) Is the absence of unanimity an in- 
dispensable condition of true knowledge? Is it necessary that some 
part of mankind should persist in error, to enable any to realize the 
truth? Does a belief cease to be real and vital as soon as it is gen- 
erally received and is a proposition never thoroughly understood 
and felt unless some doubt of it remains? As soon as mankind 
have unanimously accepted a truth, does the truth perish within 
them? The highest aim and best result of improved intelligence, 
it has hitherto been thought, is to unite mankind more and more in 



238 JOHN STUART MILL 

the acknowledgment of all important truths: and does the intelli- 
gence only last as long as it has not achieved its object? Do the 
fruits of conquest perish by the very completeness of the victory? 

I affirm no such thing. As mankind improve, the number of 
doctrines which are no longer disputed or doubted will be constantly 
on the increase : and the well-being of mankind may almost be meas- 
ured by the number and gravity of the truths which have reached 
the point of being uncontested. The cessation, on one question after 
another, of serious controversy, is one of the necessary incidents of 
the consolidation of opinion; a consolidation as salutary in the case 
of true opinions, as it is dangerous and noxious when the opinions 
are erroneous. But though this gradual narrowing of the bounds 
of diversity of opinion is necessary in both senses of the term, being 
at once inevitable and indispensable, we are not therefore obliged 
to conclude that all its consequences must be beneficial. The loss 
of so important an aid to the intelligent and living apprehension of 
a truth, as is afforded by the necessity of explaining it to, or defend- 
ing it against, opponents, though not sufficient to outweigh, is no 
trifling drawback from, the benefit of its universal recognition. 
Where this advantage can no longer be had, I confess I should like 
to see the teachers of mankind endeavoring to provide a substitute 
for it; some contrivance for making the difficulties of the question 
as present to the learner's consciousness, as if they were pressed 
upon him by a dissentient champion, eager for his conversion. 

But instead of seeking contrivances for this purpose, they have 
lost those they formerly had. The Socratic dialectics, so magnifi- 
cently exemplified in the dialogues of Plato, were a contrivance of 
this description. They were essentially a negative discussion of the 
great questions of philosophy and life, directed with consummate 
skill to the purpose of convincing any one who had merely adopted 
the commonplaces of received opinion, that he did not understand 
the subject that he as yet attached no definite meaning to the doc- 
trines he professed; in order that, becoming aware of his ignorance, 
he might be put in the way to attain a stable belief, resting on a 
clear apprehension both of the meaning of doctrines and of their 
evidence. The school disputations of the Middle Ages had a some- 
what similar object. They were intended to make sure that the 



ON LIBERTY 239 

pupil understood his own opinion, and (by necessary correlation) 
the opinion opposed to it, and could enforce the grounds of the one 
and confute those of the other. These last-mentioned contests had 
indeed the incurable defect, that the premises appealed to were taken 
from authority, not from reason; and, as a discipline to the mind, 
they were in every respect inferior to the powerful dialectics which 
formed the intellects of the "Socratici viri:" but the modern mind 
owes far more to both than it is generally willing to admit, and the 
present modes of education contain nothing which in the smallest 
degree supplies the place either of the one or of the other. A person 
who derives all his instruction from teachers or books, even if he 
escape the besetting temptation of contenting himself with cram, 
is under no compulsion to hear both sides; accordingly it is far from 
a frequent accomplishment, even among thinkers, to know both 
sides; and the weakest part of what everybody says in defence of his 
opinion, is what he intends as a reply to antagonists. It is the fash- 
ion of the present time to disparage negative logic that which 
points out weaknesses in theory or errors in practice, without estab- 
lishing positive truths. Such negative criticism would indeed be poor 
enough as an ultimate result; but as a means to attaining any posi- 
tive knowledge or conviction worthy the name, it cannot be valued 
too highly; and until people are again systematically trained to it, 
there will be few great thinkers, and a low general average of intel- 
lect, in any but the mathematical and physical departments of spec- 
ulation. On any other subject no one's opinions deserve the name 
of knowledge, except so far as he has either had forced upon him 
by others, or gone through of himself, the same mental process 
which would have been required of him in carrying on an active 
controversy with opponents. That, therefore, which when absent, 
it is so indispensable, but so difficult, to create, how worse than 
absurd is it to forego, when spontaneously offering itself! If there 
are any persons who contest a received opinion, or who will do so 
if law or opinion will let them, let us thank them for it, open our 
minds to listen to them, and rejoice that there is some one to do for 
us what we otherwise ought, if we have any regard for either the cer- 
tainty or the vitality of our convictions, to do with much greater 
labor for ourselves. 



240 JOHN STUART MILL 

It still remains to speak of one of the principal causes which make 
diversity of opinion advantageous, and will continue to do so until 
mankind shall have entered a stage of intellectual advancement 
which at present seems at an incalculable distance. We have hith- 
erto considered only two possibilities: that the received opinion may 
be false, and some other opinion, consequently, true; or that, the 
received opinion being true, a conflict with the opposite error is 
essential to a clear apprehension and deep feeling of its truth. But 
there is a commoner case than either of these; when the conflicting 
doctrines, instead of being one true and the other false, share the 
truth between them; and the nonconforming opinion is needed to 
supply the remainder of the truth, of which the received doctrine 
embodies only a part. Popular opinions, on subjects not palpable 
to sense, are often true, but seldom or never the whole truth. They 
are a part of the truth; sometimes a greater, sometimes a smaller 
part, but exaggerated, distorted, and disjoined from the truths by 
which they ought to be accompanied and limited. Heretical opin- 
ions, on the other hand, are generally some of these suppressed and 
neglected truths, bursting the bonds which kept them down, and 
either seeking reconciliation with the truth contained in the common 
opinion, or fronting it as enemies, and setting themselves up, with 
similar exclusiveness, as the whole truth. The latter case is hitherto 
the most frequent, as, in the human mind, one-sidedness has always 
been the rule, and many-sidedness the exception. Hence, even in 
revolutions of opinion, one part of the truth usually sets while an- 
other rises. Even progress, which ought to superadd, for the most 
part only substitutes one partial and incomplete truth for another; 
improvement consisting chiefly in this, that the new fragment of 
truth is more wanted, more adapted to the needs of the time, than 
that which it displaces. Such being the partial character of prevail- 
ing opinions, even when resting on a true foundation; every opinion 
which embodies somewhat of the portion of truth which the com- 
mon opinion omits, ought to be considered precious, with whatever 
amount of error and confusion that truth may be blended. No sober 
judge of human affairs will feel bound to be indignant because those 
who force on our notice truths which we should otherwise have over- 
looked, overlook some of those which we see. Rather, he will think 



ON LIBERTY 24! 

that so long as popular truth is one-sided, it is more desirable than 
otherwise that unpopular truth should have one-sided asserters too; 
such being usually the most energetic, and the most likely to compel 
reluctant attention to the fragment of wisdom which they proclaim 
as if it were the whole. 

Thus, in the eighteenth century, when nearly all the instructed, 
and all those of the uninstructed who were led by them, were lost 
in admiration of what is called civilization, and of the marvels of 
modern science, literature, and philosophy, and while greatly over- 
rating the amount of unlikeness between the men of modern and 
those of ancient times, indulged the belief that the whole of the 
difference was in their own favour; with what a salutary shock did 
the paradoxes of Rousseau explode like bombshells in the midst, dis- 
locating the compact mass of one-sided opinion, and forcing its ele- 
ments to recombine in a better form and with additional ingredients. 
Not that the current opinions were on the whole farther from the 
truth than Rousseau's were; on the contrary, they were nearer to it; 
they contained more of positive truth, and very much less of error. 
Nevertheless there lay in Rousseau's doctrine, and has floated down 
the stream of opinion along with it, a considerable amount of exactly 
those truths which the popular opinion wanted; and these are the 
deposit which was left behind when the flood subsided. The superior 
worth of simplicity of life, the enervating and demoralizing effect 
of the trammels and hypocrisies of artificial society, are ideas which 
have never been entirely absent from cultivated minds since Rous- 
seau wrote; and they will in time produce their due effect, though 
at present needing to be asserted as much as ever, and to be asserted 
by deeds, for words, on this subject, have nearly exhausted their 
power. 

In politics, again, it is almost a commonplace, that a party of 
order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both neces- 
sary elements of a healthy state of political life; until the one or the 
other shall have so enlarged its mental grasp as to be a party equally 
of order and of progress, knowing and distinguishing what is fit to 
be preserved from what ought to be swept away. Each of these 
modes of thinking derives its utility from the deficiencies of the 
other; but it is in a great measure the opposition of the other that 



242 JOHN STUART MILL 

keeps each within the limits of reason and sanity. Unless opinions 
favorable to democracy and to aristocracy, to property and to equal- 
ity, to cooperation and to competition, to luxury and to abstinence, 
to sociality and individuality, to liberty and discipline, and all the 
other standing antagonisms of practical life, are expressed with equal 
freedom, and enforced and defended with equal talent and energy, 
there is no chance of both elements obtaining their due; one scale 
is sure to go up, and the other down. Truth, in the great practical 
concerns of life, is so much a question of the reconciling and com- 
bining of opposites, that very few have minds sufficiently capacious 
and impartial to make the adjustment with an approach to correct- 
ness, and it has to be made by the rough process of a struggle be- 
tween combatants fighting under hostile banners. On any of the 
great open questions just enumerated, if either of the two opinions 
has a better claim than the other, not merely to be tolerated, but to 
be encouraged and countenanced, it is the one which happens at the 
particular time and place to be in a minority. That is the opinion 
which, for the time being, represents the neglected interests, the side 
of human well-being which is in danger of obtaining less than its 
share. I am aware that there is not, in this country, any intolerance 
of differences of opinion on most of these topics. They are adduced 
to show, by admitted and multiplied examples, the universality, of 
the fact, that only through diversity of opinion is there, in the exist- 
ing state of human intellect, a chance of fair play to all sides of the 
truth. When there are persons to be found, who form an exception 
to the apparent unanimity of the world on any subject, even if the 
world is in the right, it is always probable that dissentients have 
something worth hearing to say for themselves, and that truth 
would lose something by their silence. 

It may be objected, "But some received principles, especially on 
the highest and most vital subjects, are more than half-truths. The 
Christian morality, for instance, is the whole truth on that subject 
and if any one teaches a morality which varies from it, he is wholly 
in error." As this is of all cases the most important in practice, none 
can be fitter to test the general maxim. But before pronouncing 
what Christian morality is or is not, it would be desirable to decide 
what is meant by Christian morality. If it means the morality of the 



ON LIBERTY 243 

New Testament, I wonder that any one who derives his knowledge 
of this from the book itself, can suppose that it was announced, or 
intended, as a complete doctrine of morals. The Gospel always refers 
to a preexisting morality, and confines its precepts to the particulars 
in which that morality was to be corrected, or superseded by a wider 
and higher; expressing itself, moreover, in terms most general, often 
impossible to be interpreted literally, and possessing rather the im- 
pressiveness of poetry or eloquence than the precision of legislation. 
To extract from it a body of ethical doctrine, has never been possible 
without eking it out from the Old Testament, that is, from a system 
elaborate indeed, but in many respects barbarous, and intended only 
for a barbarous people. St. Paul, a declared enemy to this Judaical 
mode of interpreting the doctrine and filling up the scheme of his 
Master, equally assumes a preexisting morality, namely, that of the 
Greeks and Romans; and his advice to Christians is in a great meas- 
ure a system of accommodation to that; even to the extent of giving 
an apparent sanction to slavery. What is called Christian, but should 
rather be termed theological, morality, was not the work of Christ 
or the Apostles, but is of much later origin, having been gradually 
built up by the Catholic Church of the first five centuries, and 
though not implicitly adopted by moderns and Protestants, has been 
much less modified by them than might have been expected. For the 
most part, indeed, they have contented themselves with cutting off 
the additions which had been made to it in the Middle Ages, each 
sect supplying the place by fresh additions, adapted to its own char- 
acter and tendencies. That mankind owe a great debt to this mo- 
rality, and to its early teachers, I should be the last person to deny; 
but I do not scruple to say of it, that it is, in many important points, 
incomplete and one-sided, and that unless ideas and feelings, not 
sanctioned by it, had contributed to the formation of European life 
and character, human affairs would have been in a worse condition 
than they now are. Christian morality (so called) has all the char- 
acters of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism. 
Its ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than active; 
Innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinence from Evil, rather than 
energetic Pursuit of Good: in its precepts (as has been well said) 
"thou shalt not" predominates unduly over "thou shalt." In its hor- 



244 JOHN STUART MILL 

ror of sensuality, it made an idol o asceticism, which has been grad- 
ually compromised away into one of legality. It holds out the hope 
of heaven and the threat of hell, as the appointed and appropriate 
motives to a virtuous life: in this falling far below the best of the 
ancients, and doing what lies in it to give to human morality an 
essentially selfish character, by disconnecting each man's feelings of 
duty from the interests of his fellow-creatures, except so far as a self- 
interested inducement is offered to him for consulting them. It is 
essentially a doctrine of passive obedience; it inculcates submission 
to all authorities found established; who indeed are not to be actively 
obeyed when they command what religion forbids, but who are not 
to be resisted, far less rebelled against, for any amount of wrong to 
ourselves. And while, in the morality of the best Pagan nations, 
duty to the State holds even a disproportionate place, infringing on 
the just liberty of the individual; in purely Christian ethics that 
grand department of duty is scarcely noticed or acknowledged. It 
is in the Koran, not the New Testament, that we read the maxim 
"A ruler who appoints any man to an office, when there is in his 
dominions another man better qualified for it, sins against God and 
against the State." What little recognition the idea of obligation to 
the public obtains in modern morality, is derived from Greek and 
Roman sources, not from Christian; as, even in the morality of pri- 
vate life, whatever exists of magnanimity, high-mindedness, personal 
dignity, even the sense of honor, is derived from the purely human, 
not the religious part of our education, and never could have grown 
out of a standard of ethics in which the only worth, professedly 
recognized, is that of obedience. 

I am as far as any one from pretending that these defects are 
necessarily inherent in the Christian ethics, in every manner in which 
it can be conceived, or that the many requisites of a complete moral 
doctrine which it does not contain, do not admit of being reconciled 
with it. Far less would I insinuate this of the doctrines and precepts 
of Christ himself. I believe that the sayings of Christ are all, that 
I can see any evidence of their having been intended to be; that they 
are irreconcilable with nothing which a comprehensive morality re- 
quires; that everything which is excellent in ethics may be brought 
within them, with no greater violence to their language than has 



ON LIBERTY 245 

been done to it by all who have attempted to deduce from them 
any practical system of conduct whatever. But it is quite consistent 
with this, to believe that they contain and were meant to contain, 
only a part of the truth; that many essential elements of the highest 
morality are among the things which are not provided for, nor 
intended to be provided for, in the recorded deliverances of the 
Founder of Christianity, and which have been entirely thrown 
aside in the system of ethics erected on the basis of those de- 
liverances by the Christian Church. And this being so, I think 
it a great error to persist in attempting to find in the Christian 
doctrine that complete rule for our guidance, which its author 
intended it to sanction and enforce, but only partially to provide. 
I believe, too, that this narrow theory is becoming a grave practical 
evil, detracting greatly from the value of the moral training and 
instruction, which so many well-meaning persons are now at length 
exerting themselves to promote. I much fear that by attempting to 
form the mind and feelings on an exclusively religious type, and 
discarding those secular standards (as for want of a better name they 
may be called) which heretofore coexisted with and supplemented 
the Christian ethics, receiving some of its spirit, and infusing into it 
some of theirs, there will result, and is even now resulting, a low, 
abject, servile type of character, which, submit itself as it may to 
what it deems the Supreme Will, is incapable of rising to or sympa- 
thizing in the conception of Supreme Goodness. I believe that other 
ethics than any one which can be evolved from exclusively Christian 
sources, must exist side by side with Christian ethics to produce the 
moral regeneration of mankind; and that the Christian system is 
no exception to the rule that in an imperfect state of the human 
mind, the interests of truth require a diversity of opinions. It is 
not necessary that in ceasing to ignore the moral truths not con- 
tained in Christianity, men should ignore any of those which it does 
contain. Such prejudice, or oversight, when it occurs, is altogether 
an evil; but it is one from which we cannot hope to be always ex- 
empt, and must be regarded as the price paid for an inestimable 
good. The exclusive pretension made by a part of the truth to be the 
whole, must and ought to be protested against, and if a reactionary 
impulse should make the protestors unjust in their turn, this one- 



246 JOHN STUART MILL 

sidedness, like the other, may be lamented, but must be tolerated. 
If Christians would teach infidels to be just to Christianity, they 
should themselves be just to infidelity. It can do truth no service 
to blink the fact, known to all who have the most ordinary acquaint- 
ance with literary history, that a large portion of the noblest and 
most valuable moral teaching has been the work, not only of men 
who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected, the Christian 
faith. 

I do not pretend that the most unlimited use of the freedom of 
enunciating all possible opinions would put an end to the evils of 
religious or philosophical sectarianism. Every truth which men of 
narrow capacity are in earnest about is sure to be asserted, incul- 
cated, and in many ways ever acted on, as if no other truth existed 
in the world, or at all events none that could limit or qualify the 
first. I acknowledge that the tendency of all opinions to become 
sectarian is not cured by the freest discussion, but is often heightened 
and exacerbated thereby; the truth which ought to have been, but 
was not, seen, being rejected all the more violently because pro- 
claimed by persons regarded as opponents. But it is not on the 
impassioned partisan, it is on the calmer and more disinterested 
bystander, that this collision of opinions works its salutary effect. 
Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet sup- 
pression of half of it, is the formidable evil: there is always hope 
when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend 
only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases 
to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. And 
since there are few mental attributes more rare than that judicial 
faculty which can sit in intelligent judgment between two sides of a 
question, of which only one is represented by an advocate before it, 
truth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it, every 
opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth, not only finds ad- 
vocates, but is so advocated as to be listened to. 

We have now recognized the necessity to the mental well-being 
of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of free- 
dom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four 
distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate. 

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for 



ON LIBERTY 247 

aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume 
our own infallibility. 

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and 
very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the gen- 
eral or prevailing opinion on any object is rarely or never the whole 
truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remain- 
der of the truth has any chance of being supplied. 

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the 
whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously 
and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be 
held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or 
feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the 
meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or 
enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and con- 
duct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious 
for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth 
of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal expe- 
rience. 

Before quitting the subject of freedom of opinion, it is fit to take 
notice of those who say, that the free expression of all opinions 
should be permitted, on condition that the manner be temperate, 
and do not pass the bounds ofl fair discussion. Much might be 
said on the impossibility of fixing where these supposed bounds are 
to be placed; for if the test be offence to those whose opinion is 
attacked, I think experience testifies that this offence is given when- 
ever the attack is telling and powerful, and that every opponent 
who pushes them hard, and whom they find it difficult to answer, 
appears to them, if he shows any strong feeling on the subject, an 
intemperate opponent. But this, though an important consideration 
in a practical point of view, merges in a more fundamental objec- 
tion. Undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though 
it be a true one, may be very objectionable, and may justly incur 
severe censure. But the principal offences of the kind are such as it 
is mostly impossible, unless by accidental self-betrayal, to bring 
home to conviction. The gravest of them is, to argue sophistically, 
to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, 
or misrepresent the opposite opinion. But all this, even to the most 



248 JOHN STUART MILL 

aggravated degree, is so continually done in perfect good faith, by 
persons who are not considered, and in many other respects may 
not deserve to be considered, ignorant or incompetent, that it is 
rarely possible on adequate grounds conscientiously to stamp the mis- 
representation as morally culpable; and still less could law presume 
to interfere with this kind of controversial misconduct. With regard 
to what is commonly meant by intemperate discussion, namely, in- 
vective, sarcasm, personality, and the like, the denunciation of these 
weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to 
interdict them equally to both sides; but it is only desired to restrain 
the employment of them against the prevailing opinion : against the 
unprevailing they may not only be used without general disap- 
proval, but will be likely to obtain for him who uses them the 
praise of honest zeal and righteous indignation. Yet whatever mis- 
chief arises from their use, is greatest when they are employed 
against the comparatively defenceless; and whatever unfair advan- 
tage can be derived by any opinion from this mode of asserting it, 
accrues almost exclusively to received opinions. The worst offence 
of this kind which can be committed by a polemic, is to stigmatize 
those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. To 
calumny of this sort, those who hold any unpopular opinion are 
peculiarly exposed, because they are in general few and uninfluential, 
and nobody but themselves feels much interest in seeing j ustice done 
them; but this weapon is, from the nature of the case, denied to those 
who attack a prevailing opinion: they can neither use it with safety 
to themselves, nor if they could, would it do anything but recoil on 
their own cause. In general, opinions contrary to those commonly 
received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of lan- 
guage, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, 
from which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degree without 
losing ground : while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side 
of the prevailing opinion, really does deter people from professing 
contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them. 
For the interest, therefore, of truth and justice, it is far more impor- 
tant to restrain this employment of vituperative language than the 
other; and, for example, if it were necessary to choose, there would 
be much more need to discourage offensive attacks on infidelity, than 



ON LIBERTY 249 

on religion. It is, however, obvious that law and authority have no 
business with restraining either, while opinion ought, in every in- 
stance, to determine its verdict by the circumstances of the individual 
case; condemning every one, on whichever side of the argument he 
places himself, in whose mode of advocacy either want of candor, 
or malignity, bigotry or intolerance of feeling manifest themselves, 
but not inferring these vices from the side which a person takes, 
though it be the contrary side of the question to our own; and giving 
merited honor to every one, whatever opinion he may hold, who has 
calmness to see and honesty to state what his opponents and their 
opinions really are, exaggerating nothing to their discredit, keeping 
nothing back which tells, or can be supposed to tell, in their favor. 
This is the real morality of public discussion; and if often violated, 
I am happy to think that there are many controversialists who to a 
great extent observe it, and a still greater number who conscien- 
tiously strive towards it. 



CHAPTER III 
ON INDIVIDUALITY, AS ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF WELLBEING 

SUCH being the reasons which make it imperative that human 
beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their 
opinions without reserve; and such the baneful consequences 
to the intellectual, and through that to the moral nature of man, 
unless this liberty is either conceded, or asserted in spite of prohi- 
bition; let us next examine whether the same reasons do not require 
that men should be free to act upon their opinions to carry these 
out in their lives, without hindrance, either physical or moral, from 
their fellow-men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril. This 
last proviso is of course indispensable. No one pretends that actions 
should be as free as opinions. On the contrary, even opinions lose 
their immunity, when the circumstances in which they are expressed 
are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to 
some mischievous act. An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of 
the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested 
when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur pun- 
ishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before 
the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same 
mob in the form of a placard. Acts of whatever kind, which, with- 
out justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the more 
important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavor- 
able sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of 
mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; 
he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he 
refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely 
acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which 
concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should 
be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, 
to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost. That mankind 
are not infallible; that their truths, for the most part, are only half- 

250 



ON LIBERTY 25! 

truths; that unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and 
freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity 
not an evil, but a good, until mankind are much more capable than 
at present of recognizing all sides of the truth, are principles applica- 
ble to men's modes of action, not less than to their opinions. As it 
is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different 
opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of liv- 
ing; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short 
of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life 
should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them. 
It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern 
others, individuality should assert itself. Where, not the person's 
own character, but the traditions of customs of other people are the 
rule of conduct, there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of 
human happiness, and quite the chief ingredient of individual and 
social progress. 

In maintaining this principle, the greatest difficulty to be encoun- 
tered does not lie in the appreciation of means towards an acknowl- 
edged end, but in the indifference of persons in general to the end 
itself. If it were felt that the free development of individuality is 
one of the leading essentials of well-being; that it is not only a co- 
ordinate element with all that is designated by the terms civiliza- 
tion, instruction, education, culture, but is itself a necessary part and 
condition of all those things; there would be no danger that liberty 
should be undervalued, and the adjustment of the boundaries be- 
tween it and social control would present no extraordinary difficulty. 
But the evil is, that individual spontaneity is hardly recognized by 
the common modes of thinking as having any intrinsic worth, or 
deserving any regard on its own account. The majority, being satis- 
fied with the ways of mankind as they now are (for it is they who 
make them what they are), cannot comprehend why those ways 
should not be good enough for everybody; and what is more, spon- 
taneity forms no part of the ideal of the majority of moral and social 
reformers, but is rather looked on with jealousy, as a troublesome 
and perhaps rebellious obstruction to the general acceptance of what 
these reformers, in their own judgment, think would be best for 
mankind. Few persons, out of Germany, even comprehend the 



252 JOHN STUART MILL 

meaning of the doctrine which Wilhelm von Humboldt, so eminent 
both as a savant and as a politician, made the text of a treatise that 
"the end of man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal or immu- 
table dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient 
desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his pow- 
ers to a complete and consistent whole;" that, therefore, the object 
"towards which every human being must ceaselessly direct his efforts, 
and on which especially those who design to influence their fellow- 
men must ever keep their eyes, is the individuality of power and 
development;" that for this there are two requisites, "freedom, and 
a variety of situations;" and that from the union of these arise "indi- 
vidual vigor and manifold diversity," which combine themselves in 
"originality." 1 

Little, however, as people are accustomed to a doctrine like that of 
Von Humboldt, and surprising as it may be to them to find so high 
a value attached to individuality, the question, one must nevertheless 
think, can only be one of degree. No one's idea of excellence in 
conduct is that people should do absolutely nothing but copy one 
another. No one would assert that people ought not to put into their 
mode of life, and into the conduct of their concerns, any impress 
whatever of their own judgment, or of their own individual char- 
acter. On the other hand, it would be absurd to pretend that people 
ought to live as if nothing whatever had been known in the world 
before they came into it; as if experience had as yet done nothing 
towards showing that one mode of existence, or of conduct, is pref- 
erable to another. Nobody denies that people should be so taught 
and trained in youth, as to know and benefit by the ascertained 
results of human experience. But it is the privilege and proper 
condition of a human being, arrived at the maturity of his faculties, 
to use and interpret experience in his own way. It is for him to 
find out what part of recorded experience is properly applicable to 
his own circumstances and character. The traditions and customs 
of other people are, to a certain extent, evidence of what their experi- 
ence has taught them; presumptive evidence, and as such, have a 
claim to this deference: but, in the first place, their experience may 

l The Sphere and Duties of Government, from the German of Baron Wilhelm 
von Humboldt, pp. 11-13. 



ON LIBERTY 253 

be too narrow; or they may not have interpreted it rightly. Sec- 
ondly, their interpretation of experience may be correct but unsuit- 
able to him. Customs are made for customary circumstances, and 
customary characters: and his circumstances or his character may 
be uncustomary. Thirdly, though the customs be both good as cus- 
toms, and suitable to him, yet to conform to custom, merely as 
custom, does not educate or develop in him any of the qualities 
which are the distinctive endowment of a human being. The human 
faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental 
activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making 
a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom, makes no 
choice. He gains no practice either in discerning or in desiring 
what is best. The mental and moral, like the muscular powers, are 
improved only by being used. The faculties are called into no exer- 
cise by doing a thing merely because others do it, no more than by 
believing a thing only because others believe it. If the grounds of an 
opinion are not conclusive to the person's own reason, his reason 
cannot be strengthened, but is likely to be weakened by his adopting 
it : and if the inducements to an act are not such as are consentaneous 
to his own feelings and character (where affection, or the rights of 
others are not concerned), it is so much done towards rendering 
his feelings and character inert and torpid, instead of active and ener- 
getic. 

He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan 
of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like 
one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all 
his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judg- 
ment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimina- 
tion to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to 
hold to his deliberate decision. And these qualities he requires and 
exercises exactly in proportion as the part of his conduct which he 
determines according to his own judgment and feelings is a large 
one. It is possible that he might be guided in some good path, and 
kept out of harm's way, without any of these things. But what will 
be his comparative worth as a human being? It really is of impor- 
tance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they 
are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly 



254 JOHN STUART MILL 

employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance 
surely is man himself. Supposing it were possible to get houses 
built, corn grown, battles fought, causes tried, and even churches 
erected and prayers said, by machinery by automatons in human 
form it would be a considerable loss to exchange for these autom- 
atons even the men and women who at present inhabit the more 
civilized parts of the world, and who assuredly are but starved speci- 
mens of what nature can and will produce. Human nature is not 
a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work 
prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop 
itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces 
which make it a living thing. 

It will probably be conceded that it is desirable people should 
exercise their understandings, and that an intelligent following of 
custom, or even occasionally an intelligent deviation from custom, 
is better than a blind and simply mechanical adhesion to it. To a 
certain extent it is admitted, that our understanding should be our 
own: but there is not the same willingness to admit that our desires 
and impulses should be our own likewise; or that to possess impulses 
of our own, and of any strength, is anything but a peril and a snare. 
Yet desires and impulses are as much a part of a perfect human 
being, as beliefs and restraints: and strong impulses are only perilous 
when not properly balanced; when one set of aims and inclinations 
is developed into strength, while others, which ought to coexist with 
them, remain weak and inactive. It is not because men's desires are 
strong that they act ill; it is because their consciences are weak. 
There is no natural connection between strong impulses and a weak 
conscience. The natural connection is the other way. To say that 
one person's desires and feelings are stronger and more various than 
those of another, is merely to say that he has more of the raw mate- 
rial of human nature, and is therefore capable, perhaps of more 
evil, but certainly of more good. Strong impulses are but another 
name for energy. Energy may be turned to bad uses; but more good 
may always be made of an energetic nature, than of an indolent and 
impassive one. Those who have most natural feeling, are always 
those whose cultivated feelings may be made the strongest. The 
same strong susceptibilities which make the personal impulses vivid 



ON LIBERTY 255 

and powerful, are also the source from whence are generated the 
most passionate love of virtue, and the sternest self-control. It is 
through the cultivation of these, that society both does its duty and 
protects its interests: not by rejecting the stufl of which heroes are 
made, because it knows not how to make them. A person whose 
desires and impulses are his own are the expression of his own 
nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture 
is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not 
his own, has no character, no more than a steam-engine has a char- 
acter. If, in addition to being his own, his impulses are strong, and 
are under the government of a strong will, he has an energetic char- 
acter. Whoever thinks that individuality of desires and impulses 
should not be encouraged to unfold itself, must maintain that society 
has no need of strong natures is not the better for containing many 
persons who have much character and that a high general average 
of energy is not desirable. 

In some early states of society, these forces might be, and were, 
too much ahead of the power which society then possessed of dis- 
ciplining and controlling them. There has been a time when the 
element of spontaneity and individuality was in excess, and the social 
principle had a hard struggle with it. The difficulty then was, to 
induce men of strong bodies or minds to pay obedience to any rules 
which required them to control their impulses. To overcome this 
difficulty, law and discipline, like the Popes struggling against the 
Emperors, asserted a power over the whole man, claiming to control 
all his life in order to control his character which society had not 
found any other sufficient means of binding. But society has now 
fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens 
human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, of personal im- 
pulses and preferences. Things are vastly changed, since the pas- 
sions of those who were strong by station or by personal endowment 
were in a state of habitual rebellion against laws and ordinances, 
and required to be rigorously chained up to enable the persons 
within their reach to enjoy any particle of security. In our times, 
from the highest class of society down to the lowest every one lives 
as under the eye of a hostile and dreaded censorship. Not only in 
what concerns others, but in what concerns only themselves, the 



256 JOHN STUART MILL 

individual, or the family, do not ask themselves what do I prefer? 
or, what would suit my character and disposition? or, what would 
allow the best and highest in me to have fair play, and enable it 
to grow and thrive? They ask themselves, what is suitable to my 
position ? what is usually done by persons of my station and pecuni- 
ary circumstances? or (worse still) what is usually done by persons 
of a station and circumstances superior to mine? I do not mean 
that they choose what is customary, in preference to what suits their 
own inclination. It does not occur to them to have any inclination, 
except for what is customary. Thus the mind itself is bowed to the 
yoke: even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first 
thing thought of; they like in crowds; they exercise choice only 
among things commonly done: peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of 
conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not 
following their own nature, they have no nature to follow: their 
human capacities are withered and starved: they become incapable 
of any strong wishes or native pleasures, and are generally with- 
out either opinions or feelings of home growth, or properly their 
own. Now is this, or is it not, the desirable condition of human 
nature? 

It is so, on the Calvinistic theory. According to that, the one 
great offence of man is Self-will. All the good of which humanity 
is capable, is comprised in Obedience. You have no choice; thus 
you must do, and no otherwise; "whatever is not a duty is a sin." 
Human nature being radically corrupt, there is no redemption for 
any one until human nature is killed within him. To one holding 
this theory of life, crushing out any of the human faculties, capacities, 
and susceptibilities, is no evil: man needs no capacity, but that of 
surrendering himself to the will of God: and if he uses any of his 
faculties for any other purpose but to do that supposed will more 
effectually, he is better without them. That is the theory of Cal- 
vinism; and it is held, in a mitigated form, by many who do not 
consider themselves Calvinists; the mitigation consisting in giving 
a less ascetic interpretation to the alleged will of God; asserting it 
to be his will that mankind should gratify some of their inclinations; 
of course not in the manner they themselves prefer, but in the way 
of obedience, that is, in a way prescribed to them by authority; 



ON LIBERTY 257 

and, therefore, by the necessary conditions of the case, the same 
for all. 

In some such insidious form there is at present a strong tendency 
to this narrow theory of life, and to the pinched and hidebound type 
of human character which it patronizes. Many persons, no doubt, 
sincerely think that human beings thus cramped and dwarfed, are 
as their Maker designed them to be; just as many have thought that 
trees are a much finer thing when clipped into pollards, or cut 
out into figures of animals, than as nature made them. But if it be 
any part of religion to believe that man was made by a good Being, 
it is more consistent with that faith to believe, that this Being gave 
all human faculties that they might be cultivated and unfolded, not 
rooted out and consumed, and that he takes delight in every nearer 
approach made by his creatures to the ideal conception embodied in 
them, every increase in any of their capabilities of comprehension, 
of action, or of enjoyment. There is a different type of human excel- 
lence from the Calvinistic; a conception of humanity as having its 
nature bestowed on it for other purposes than merely to be abne- 
gated. "Pagan self-assertion" is one of the elements of human worth, 
as well as "Christian self-denial." z There is a Greek ideal of self- 
development, which the Platonic and Christian ideal of self-govern- 
ment blends with, but does not supersede. It may be better to be a 
John Knox than an Alcibiades, but it is better to be a Pericles than 
either; nor would a Pericles, if we had one in these days, be without 
anything good which belonged to John Knox. 

It is not by wearing down into uniformity all that is individual in 
themselves, but by cultivating it and calling it forth, within the 
limits imposed by the rights and interests of others, that human 
beings become a noble and beautiful object of contemplation; and 
as the works partake the character of those who do them, by the 
same process human life also becomes rich, diversified, and animat- 
ing, furnishing more abundant aliment to high thoughts and elevat- 
ing feelings, and strengthening the tie which binds every individual 
to the race, by making the race infinitely better worth belonging to. 
In proportion to the development of his individuality, each person 
becomes more valuable to himself, and is therefore capable of being 

2 Sterling's Essays. 



258 JOHN STUART MILL 

more valuable to others. There is a greater fulness of life about his 
own existence, and when there is more life in the units there is more 
in the mass which is composed of them. As much compression as 
is necessary to prevent the stronger specimens of human nature from 
encroaching on the rights of others, cannot be dispensed with; but 
for this there is ample compensation even in the point of view of 
human development. The means of development which the indi- 
vidual loses by being prevented from gratifying his inclinations to 
the injury of others, are chiefly obtained at the expense of the devel- 
opment of other people. And even to himself there is a full equiva- 
lent in the better development of the social part of his nature, ren- 
dered possible by the restraint put upon the selfish part. To be held 
to rigid rules of justice for the sake of others, develops the feelings 
and capacities which have the good of others for their object. But to 
be restrained in things not affecting their good, by their mere dis- 
pleasure, develops nothing valuable, except such force of character 
as may unfold itself in resisting the restraint. If acquiesced in, it 
dulls and blunts the whole nature. To give any fair play to the na- 
ture of each, it is essential that different persons should be allowed 
to lead different lives. In proportion as this latitude has been exer- 
cised in any age, has that age been noteworthy to posterity. Even 
despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as Individuality 
exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by 
whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be 
enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men. 

Having said that Individuality is the same thing with develop- 
ment, and that it is only the cultivation of individuality which pro- 
duces, or can produce, well-developed human beings, I might here 
close the argument: for what more or better can be said of any 
condition of human affairs, than that it brings human beings them- 
selves nearer to the best thing they can be? or what worse can be 
said of any obstruction to good, than that it prevents this? Doubt- 
less, however, these considerations will not suffice to convince those 
who most need convincing; and it is necessary further to show, that 
these developed human beings are of some use to the undeveloped 
to point out to those who do not desire liberty, and would not avail 
themselves of it, that they may be in some intelligible manner 



ON LIBERTY 259 

rewarded for allowing other people to make use of it without 
hindrance. 

In the first place, then, I would suggest that they might possibly 
learn something from them. It will not be denied by anybody, that 
originality is a valuable element in human affairs. There is always 
need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when 
what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence 
new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, 
and better taste and sense in human life. This cannot well be gain- 
said by anybody who does not believe that the world has already 
attained perfection in all its ways and practices. It is true that this 
benefit is not capable of being rendered by everybody alike: there 
are but few persons, in comparison with the whole of mankind, 
whose experiments, if adopted by others, would be likely to be any 
improvement on established practice. But these few are the salt of 
the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. 
Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before 
exist; it is they who keep the life in those which already existed. 
If there were nothing new to be done, would human intellect cease 
to be necessary? Would it be a reason why those who do the old 
things should forget why they are done, and do them like cattle, not 
like human beings? There is only too great a tendency in the best 
beliefs and practices to degenerate into the mechanical; and unless 
there were a succession of persons whose ever-recurring originality 
prevents the grounds of those beliefs and practices from becoming 
merely traditional, such dead matter would not resist the smallest 
shock from anything really alive, and there would be no reason 
why civilization should not die out, as in the Byzantine Empire. 
Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are always likely to be, a small 
minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the 
soil in which they grow. Genius can only breathe freely in an atmos- 
phere of freedom. Persons of genius are, ex vi termini, more indi- 
vidual than any other people less capable, consequently, of fitting 
themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small 
number of moulds which society provides in order to save its mem- 
bers the trouble of forming their own character. If from timidity 
they consent to be forced into one of these moulds, and to let all 



260 JOHN STUART MILL 

that part of themselves which cannot expand under the pressure 
remain unexpanded, society will be little the better for their genius. 
If they are of a strong character, and break their fetters they become 
a mark for the society which has not succeeded in reducing them 
to common-place, to point at with solemn warning as "wild," 
"erratic," and the like; much as if one should complain of the 
Niagara river for not flowing smoothly between its banks like a 
Dutch canal. 

I insist thus emphatically on the importance of genius, and the 
necessity of allowing it to unfold itself freely both in thought and 
in practice, being well aware that no one will deny the position in 
theory, but knowing also that almost every one, in reality, is totally 
indifferent to it. People think genius a fine thing if it enables a man 
to write an exciting poem, or paint a picture. But in its true sense, 
that of originality in thought and action, though no one says that 
it is not a thing to be admired, nearly all, at heart, think they can 
do very well without it. Unhappily this is too natural to be wondered 
at. Originality is the one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel 
the use of. They cannot see what it is to do for them: how should 
they? If they could see what it would do for them, it would not 
be originality. The first service which originality has to render them, 
is that of opening their eyes: which being once fully done, they 
would have a chance of being themselves original. Meanwhile, rec- 
ollecting that nothing was ever yet done which some one was not 
the first to do, and that all good things which exist are the fruits 
of originality, let them be modest enough to believe that there is 
something still left for it to accomplish, and assure themselves that 
they are more in need of originality, the less they are conscious of 
the want. 

In sober truth, whatever homage may be professed, or even paid, 
to real or supposed mental superiority, the general tendency of things 
throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power 
among mankind. In ancient history, in the Middle Ages, and in a 
diminishing degree through the long transition from feudality to the 
present time, the individual was a power in himself; and if he had 
either great talents or a high social position, he was a considerable 
power. At present individuals are lost in the crowd. In politics it 



ON LIBERTY 26 1 

is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. 
The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of govern- 
ments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and 
instincts of masses. This is as true in the moral and social relations 
of private life as in public transactions. Those whose opinions go 
by the name of public opinion, are not always the same sort of public : 
in America, they are the whole white population; in England, chiefly 
the middle class. But they are always a mass, that is to say, collective 
mediocrity. And what is still greater novelty, the mass do not now 
take their opinions from dignitaries in Church or State, from osten- 
sible leaders, or from books. Their thinking is done for them by 
men much like themselves, addressing them or speaking in their 
name, on the spur of the moment, through the newspapers. I am 
not complaining of all this. I do not assert that anything better is com- 
patible, as a general rule, with the present low state of the human 
mind. But that does not hinder the government of mediocrity from 
being mediocre government. No government by a democracy or a 
numerous aristocracy, either in its political acts or in the opinions, 
qualities, and tone of mind which it fosters, ever did or could rise 
above mediocrity, except in so far as the sovereign Many have let 
themselves be guided (which in their best times they always have 
done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and 
instructed One or Few. The initiation of all wise or noble things, 
comes and must come from individuals; generally at first from 
some one individual. The honor and glory of the average man is 
that he is capable of following that initiative; that he can respond 
internally to wise and noble things, and be led to them with his eyes 
open. I am not countenancing the sort of "hero-worship" which 
applauds the strong man of genius for forcibly seizing on the gov- 
ernment of the world and making it do his bidding in spite of itself. 
All he can claim is, freedom to point out the way. The power of 
compelling others into it, is not only inconsistent with the freedom 
and development of all the rest, but corrupting to the strong man 
himself. It does seem, however, that when the opinions of masses of 
merely average men are everywhere become or becoming the domi- 
nant power, the counterpoise and corrective to that tendency would 
be, the more and more pronounced individuality of those who stand 



262 JOHN STUART MILL 

on the higher eminences of thought. It is in these circumstances 
most especially, that exceptional individuals, instead of being de- 
terred, should be encouraged in acting differently from the mass. 
In other times there was no advantage in their doing so, unless they 
acted not only differently, but better. In this age the mere example 
of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is 
itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as 
to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break 
through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity 
has always abounded when and where strength of character has 
abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally 
been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral 
courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, 
marks the chief danger of the time. 

I have said that it is important to give the freest scope possible to 
uncustomary things, in order that it may in time appear which of 
these are fit to be converted into customs. But independence of 
action, and disregard of custom are not solely deserving of encour- 
agement for the chance they afford that better modes of action, and 
customs more worthy of general adoption, may be struck out; nor 
is it only persons of decided mental superiority who have a just claim 
to carry on their lives in their own way. There is no reason that all 
human existences should be constructed on some one, or some small 
number of patterns. If a person possesses any tolerable amount of 
common sense and experience, his own mode of laying out his ex- 
istence is the best, not because it is the best in itself, but because it 
is his own mode. Human beings are not like sheep; and even sheep 
are not undistinguishably alike. A man cannot get a coat or a pair 
of boots to fit him, unless they are either made to his measure, or he 
has a whole warehouseful to choose from: and is it easier to fit him 
with a life than with a coat, or are human beings more like one 
another in their whole physical and spiritual conformation than in 
the shape of their feet? If it were only that people have diversities 
of taste that is reason enough for not attempting to shape them all 
after one model. But different persons also require different condi- 
tions for their spiritual development; and can no more exist healthily 
in the same moral, than all the variety of plants can in the samEr 



ON LIBERTY 263 

physical atmosphere and climate. The same things which are helps 
to one person towards the cultivation of his higher nature, are hin- 
drances to another. The same mode of life is a healthy excitement 
to one, keeping all his faculties of action and enjoyment in their best 
order, while to another it is a distracting burden, which suspends 
or crushes all internal life. Such are the differences among human 
beings in their sources of pleasure, their susceptibilities of pain, and 
the operation on them of different physical and moral agencies, that 
unless there is a corresponding diversity in their modes of life, they 
neither obtain their fair share of happiness, nor grow up to the men- 
tal, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable. Why 
then should tolerance, as far as the public sentiment is concerned, 
extend only to tastes and modes of life which extort acquiescence by 
the multitude of their adherents? Nowhere (except in some monas- 
tic institutions) is diversity of taste entirely unrecognized; a person 
may without blame, either like or dislike rowing, or smoking, or 
music, or athletic exercises, or chess, or cards, or study, because both 
those who like each of these things, and those who dislike them, are 
too numerous to be put down. But the man, and still more the 
woman, who can be accused either of doing "what nobody does," 
or of not doing "what everybody does," is the subject of as much 
depreciatory remark as if he or she had committed some grave moral 
delinquency. Persons require to possess a title, or some other badge 
of rank, or the consideration of people of rank, to be able to indulge 
somewhat in the luxury of doing as they like without detriment to 
their estimation. To indulge somewhat, I repeat : for whoever allow 
themselves much of that indulgence, incur the risk of something 
worse than disparaging speeches they are in peril of a commission 
de lunatico, and of having their property taken from them and given 
to their relations. 3 

3 There is something both contemptible and frightful in the sort of evidence on 
which, of late years, any person can be judicially declared unfit for the management 
of his affairs; and after his death, his disposal of his property can be set aside, if 
there is enough of it to pay the expenses of litigation which are charged on the 
property itself. All the minute details of his daily life are pried into, and whatever 
is found which, seen through the medium of the perceiving and describing faculties 
of the lowest of the low, bears an appearance unlike absolute commonplace, is laid 
before the jury as evidence of insanity, and often with success; the jurors being little, 
if at all, less vulgar and ignorant than the witnesses; while the judges, with that 
extraordinary want of knowledge of human nature and life which continually aston- 



264 JOHN STUART MILL 

There is one characteristic of the present direction of public opin- 
ion, peculiarly calculated to make it intolerant of any marked dem- 
onstration of individuality. The general average of mankind are not 
only moderate in intellect, but also moderate in inclinations: they 
have no tastes or wishes strong enough to incline them to do any- 
thing unusual, and they consequently do not understand those who 
have, and class all such with the wild and intemperate whom they 
are accustomed to look down upon. Now, in addition to this fact 
which is general, we have only to suppose that a strong movement 
has set in towards the improvement of morals, and it is evident what 
we have to expect. In these days such a movement has set in; much 
has actually been effected in the way of increased regularity of con- 
duct, and discouragement of excesses; and there is a philanthropic 
spirit abroad, for the exercise of which there is no more inviting 
field than the moral and prudential improvement of our fellow- 
creatures. These tendencies of the times cause the public to be more 
disposed than at most former periods to prescribe general rules of 
conduct, and endeavor to make every one conform to the approved 
standard. And that standard, express or tacit, is to desire nothing 
strongly. Its ideal of character is to be without any marked char- 
acter; to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady's foot, every 
part of human nature which stands out prominently, and tends to 
make the person markedly dissimilar in outline to commonplace 
humanity. 

As is usually the case with ideals which exclude one half of what 
is desirable, the present standard of approbation produces only an 
inferior imitation of the other half. Instead of great energies guided 
by vigorous reason, and strong feelings strongly controlled by a con- 
scientious will, its result is weak feelings and weak energies, which 

ishes us in English lawyers, often help to mislead them. These trials speak volumes 
as to the state of feeling and opinion among the vulgar with regard to human 
liberty. So far from setting any value on individuality so far from respecting the 
rights of each individual to act, in things indifferent, as seems good to his own 
judgment and inclinations, judges and juries cannot even conceive that a person in 
a state of sanity can desire such freedom. In former days, when it was proposed 
to burn atheists, charitable people used to suggest putting them in a madhouse in- 
stead: it would be nothing surprising now-a-days were we to see this done, and the 
doers applauding themselves, because, instead of persecuting for religion, they had 
adopted so humane and Christian a mode of treating these unfortunates, not without 
a silent satisfaction at their having thereby obtained their deserts. 



ON LIBERTY 265 

therefore can be kept in outward conformity to rule without any 
strength either of will or of reason. Already energetic characters on 
any large scale are becoming merely traditional. There is now 
scarcely any outlet for energy in this country except business. The 
energy expended in that may still be regarded as considerable. What 
little is left from that employment, is expended on some hobby; 
which may be a useful, even a philanthropic hobby, but is always 
some one thing, and generally a thing of small dimensions. The great- 
ness of England is now all collective: individually small, we only ap- 
pear capable of anything great by our habit of combining; and with 
this our moral and religious philanthropists are perfectly contented. 
But it was men of another stamp than this that made England what 
it has been; and men of another stamp will be needed to prevent 
its decline. 

The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance 
to human advancement, being in unceasing antagonism to that dis- 
position to aim at something better than customary, which is called, 
according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress 
or improvement. The spirit of improvement is not always a spirit 
of liberty, for it may aim at forcing improvements on an unwilling 
people; and the spirit of liberty, in so far as it resists such attempts, 
may ally itself locally and temporarily with the opponents of im- 
provement; but the only unfailing and permanent source of im- 
provement is liberty, since by it there are as many possible inde- 
pendent centres of improvement as there are individuals. The pro- 
gressive principle, however, in either shape, whether as the love 
of liberty or of improvement, is antagonistic to the sway of Custom, 
involving at least emancipation from that yoke; and the contest 
between the two constitutes the chief interest of the history of man- 
kind. The greater part of the world has, properly speaking, no his- 
tory, because the despotism of Custom is complete. This is the case 
over the whole East. Custom is there, in all things, the final appeal; 
justice and right mean conformity to custom; the argument of cus- 
tom no one, unless some tyrant intoxicated with power, thinks of 
resisting. And we see the result. Those nations must once have had 
originality; they did not start out of the ground populous, lettered, 
and versed in many of the arts of life; they made themselves all this, 



266 JOHN STUART MILL 

and were then the greatest and most powerful nations in the world. 
What are they now? The subjects or dependents of tribes whose 
forefathers wandered in the forests when theirs had magnificent 
palaces and gorgeous temples, but over whom custom exercised only 
a divided rule with liberty and progress. A people, it appears, may 
be progressive for a certain length of time, and then stop: when 
does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality. If a similar 
change should befall the nations of Europe, it will not be in exactly 
the same shape: the despotism of custom with which these nations 
are threatened is not precisely stationariness. It proscribes singu- 
larity, but it does not preclude change, provided all change together. 
We have discarded the fixed costumes of our forefathers; every one 
must still dress like other people, but the fashion may change once 
or twice a year. We thus take care that when there is change, it 
shall be for change's sake, and not from any idea of beauty or con- 
venience; for the same idea of beauty or convenience would not 
strike all the world at the same moment, and be simultaneously 
thrown aside by all at another moment. But we are progressive as 
well as changeable : we continually make new inventions in mechan- 
ical things, and keep them until they are again superseded by better; 
we are eager for improvement in politics, in education, even in 
morals, though in this last our idea of improvement chiefly consists 
in persuading or forcing other people to be as good as ourselves. 
It is not progress that we object to; on the contrary, we flatter our- 
selves that we are the most progressive people who ever lived. It is 
individuality that we war against: we should think we had done 
wonders if we had made ourselves all alike; forgetting that the un- 
likeness of one person to another is generally the first thing which 
draws the attention of either to the imperfection of his own type, 
and the superiority of another, or the possibility, by combining the 
advantages of both, of producing something better than either. We 
have a warning example in China a nation of much talent, and, in 
some respects, even wisdom, owing to the rare good fortune of 
having been provided at an early period with a particularly good 
set of customs, the work, in some measure, of men to whom even 
the most enlightened European must accord, under certain limita- 
tions, the title of sages and philosophers. They are remarkable, too, 



ON LIBERTY 267 

in the excellence of their apparatus for impressing, as far as possible, 
the best wisdom they possess upon every mind in the community, 
and securing that those who have appropriated most of it shall oc- 
cupy the posts of honor and power. Surely the people who did 
this have discovered the secret of human progressiveness, and must 
have kept themselves steadily at the head of the movement of the 
world. On the contrary, they have become stationary have re- 
mained so for thousands of years; and if they are ever to be farther 
improved, it must be by foreigners. They have succeeded beyond 
all hope in what English philanthropists are so industriously work- 
ing at in making a people all alike, all governing their thoughts 
and conduct by the same maxims and rules; and these are the 
fruits. The modern regime of public opinion is, in an unorganized 
form, what the Chinese educational and political systems are in an 
organized; and unless individuality shall be able successfully to as- 
sert itself against this yoke, Europe, notwithstanding its noble antece- 
dents and its professed Christianity, will tend to become another 
China. 

What is it that has hitherto preserved Europe from this lot? 
What has made the European family of nations an improving, in- 
stead of a stationary portion of mankind? Not any superior excel- 
lence in them, which when it exists, exists as the effect, not as the 
cause; but their remarkable diversity of character and culture. In- 
dividuals, classes, nations, have been extremely unlike one another: 
they have struck out a great variety of paths, each leading to some- 
thing valuable; and although at every period those who travelled 
in different paths have been intolerant of one another, and each 
would have thought it an excellent thing if all the rest could have 
been compelled to travel his road, their attempts to thwart each 
other's development have rarely had any permanent success, and 
each has in time endured to receive the good which the others have 
offered. Europe is, in my judgment, wholly indebted to this plu- 
rality of paths for its progressive and many-sided development. But 
it already begins to possess this benefit in a considerably less degree. 
It is decidedly advancing towards the Chinese ideal of making all 
people alike. M. de Tocqueville, in his last important work, remarks 
how much more the Frenchmen of the present day resemble one 



268 JOHN STUART MILL 

another, than did those even o the last generation. The same re- 
mark might be made of Englishmen in a far greater degree. In a 
passage already quoted from Wilhelm von Humboldt, he points 
out two things as necessary conditions of human development, be- 
cause necessary to render people unlike one another; namely, free- 
dom, and variety of situations. The second of these two conditions 
is in this country every day diminishing. The circumstances which 
surround different classes and individuals, and shape their charac- 
ters, are daily becoming more assimilated. Formerly, different ranks, 
different neighborhoods, different trades and professions lived in 
what might be called different worlds; at present, to a great degree, 
in the same. Comparatively speaking, they now read the same 
things, listen to the same things, see the same things, go to the 
same places, have their hopes and fears directed to the same objects, 
have the same rights and liberties, and the same means of asserting 
them. Great as are the differences of position which remain, they 
are nothing to those which have ceased. And the assimilation is still 
proceeding. All the political changes of the age promote it, since 
they all tend to raise the low and to lower the high. Every extension 
of education promotes it, because education brings people under 
common influences, and gives them access to the general stock of 
facts and sentiments. Improvements in the means of communication 
promote it, by bringing the inhabitants of distant places into per- 
sonal contact, and keeping up a rapid flow of changes of residence 
between one place and another. The increase of commerce and man- 
ufactures promotes it, by diffusing more widely the advantages of 
easy circumstances, and opening all objects of ambition, even the 
highest, to general competition, whereby the desire of rising becomes 
no longer the character of a particular class, but of all classes. A 
more powerful agency than even all these, in bringing about a gen- 
eral similarity among mankind, is the complete establishment, in 
this and other free countries, of the ascendancy of public opinion 
in the State. As the various social eminences which enabled persons 
entrenched on them to disregard the opinion of the multitude, grad- 
ually became levelled; as the very idea of resisting the will of the 
public, when it is positively known that they have a will, disap- 
pears more and more from the minds of practical politicians; there 



ON LIBERTY 269 

ceases to be any social support for non-conformity any substantive 
power in society, which, itself opposed to the ascendancy of num- 
bers, is interested in taking under its protection opinions and tend- 
encies at variance with those of the public. 

The combination of all these causes forms so great a mass of influ- 
ences hostile to Individuality, that it is not easy to see how it can 
stand its ground. It will do so with increasing difficulty, unless the 
intelligent part of the public can be made to feel its value to see 
that it is good there should be differences, even though not for the 
better, even though, as it may appear to them, some should be for 
the worse. If the claims of Individuality are ever to be asserted, the 
time is now, while much is still wanting to complete the enforced 
assimilation. It is only in the earlier stages that any stand can be 
successfully made against the encroachment. The demand that all 
other people shall resemble ourselves, grows by what it feeds on. If 
resistance waits till life is reduced nearly to one uniform type, all 
deviations from that type will come to be considered impious, im- 
moral, even monstrous and contrary to nature. Mankind speedily 
become unable to conceive diversity, when they have been for some 
time unaccustomed to see it. 



CHAPTER IV 
OF THE LIMITS TO THE AUTHORITY OF SOCIETY OVER THE INDIVIDUAL 

^T "IT THAT, then, is the rightful limit to the sovereignty of the 
\/\/ individual over himself? Where does the authority of 

V T society begin? How much of human life should be as- 
signed to individuality, and how much to society ? 

Each will receive its proper share, if each has that which more 
particularly concerns it. To individuality should belong the part of 
life in which it is chiefly the individual that is interested; to society, 
the part which chiefly interests society. 

Though society is not founded on a contract, and though no good 
purpose is answered by inventing a contract in order to deduce social 
obligations from it, every one who receives the protection of society 
owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders 
it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line 
of conduct towards the rest. This conduct consists, first, in not 
injuring the interests of one another; or rather certain interests, 
which, either by express legal provision or by tacit understanding, 
ought to be considered as rights; and secondly, in each person's bear- 
ing his share (to be fixed on some equitable principle) of the labors 
and sacrifices incurred for defending the society or its members from 
injury and molestation. These conditions society is justified in en- 
forcing, at all costs to those who endeavor to withhold fulfilment. 
Nor is this all that society may do. The acts of an individual may 
be hurtful to others, or wanting in due consideration for their wel- 
fare, without going the length of violating any of their constituted 
rights. The offender may then be justly punished by opinion, though 
not by law. As soon as any part of a person's conduct affects preju- 
dicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and 
the question whether the general welfare will or will not be pro- 
moted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion. But there 
is no room for entertaining any such question when a person's con- 

270 



ON LIBERTY 27! 

duct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not 
affect them unless they like (all the persons concerned being of full 
age, and the ordinary amount of understanding). In all such cases 
there should be perfect freedom, legal and social, to do the action 
and stand the consequences. 

It would be a great misunderstanding of this doctrine, to suppose 
that it is one of selfish indifference, which pretends that human 
beings have no business with each other's conduct in life, and that 
they should not concern themselves about the well-doing or well- 
being of one another, unless their own interest is involved. Instead 
of any diminution, there is need of a great increase of disinterested 
exertion to promote the good of others. But disinterested benevo- 
lence can find other instruments to persuade people to their good, 
than whips and scourges, either of the literal or the metaphorical 
sort. I am the last person to undervalue the self-regarding virtues; 
they are only second in importance, if even second, to the social. 
It is equally the business of education to cultivate both. But even 
education works by conviction and persuasion as well as by compul- 
sion, and it is by the former only that, when the period of education 
is past, the self-regarding virtues should be inculcated. Human beings 
owe to each other help to distinguish the better from the worse, 
and encouragement to choose the former and avoid the latter. They 
should be forever stimulating each other to increased exercise of their 
higher faculties, and increased direction of their feelings and aims 
towards wise instead of foolish, elevating instead of degrading, ob- 
jects and contemplations. But neither one person, nor any number 
of persons, is warranted in saying to another human creature of ripe 
years, that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he 
chooses to do with it. He is the person most interested in his own 
well-being, the interest which any other person, except in cases of 
strong personal attachment, can have in it, is trifling, compared 
with that which he himself has; the interest which society has in 
him individually (except as to his conduct to others) is fractional, 
and altogether indirect: while, with respect to his own feelings and 
circumstances, the most ordinary man or woman has means of 
knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed by 
any one else. The interference of society to overrule his judgment 



272 JOHN STUART MILL 

and purposes in what only regards himself, must be grounded on 
general presumptions; which may be altogether wrong, and even if 
right, are as likely as not to be misapplied to individual cases, by 
persons no better acquainted with the circumstances of such cases 
than those are who look at them merely from without. In this de- 
partment, therefore, of human affairs, Individuality has its proper 
field of action. In the conduct of human beings towards one another, 
it is necessary that general rules should for the most part be observed, 
in order that people may know what they have to expect; but in 
each person's own concerns, his individual spontaneity is entitled to 
free exercise. Considerations to aid his judgment, exhortations to 
strengthen his will, may be offered to him, even obtruded on him, 
by others; but he, himself, is the final judge. All errors which he 
is likely to commit against advice and warning, are far outweighed 
by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem 
his good. 

I do not mean that the feelings with which a person is regarded 
by others, ought not to be in any way affected by his self-regarding 
qualities or deficiencies. This is neither possible nor desirable. If 
he is eminent in any of the qualities which conduce to his own good, 
he is, so far, a proper object of admiration. He is so much the nearer 
to the ideal perfection of human nature. If he is grossly deficient 
in those qualities, a sentiment the opposite of admiration will follow. 
There is a degree of folly, and a degree of what may be called 
(though the phrase is not unobjectionable) lowness or depravation 
of taste, which, though it cannot justify doing harm to the person 
who manifests it, renders him necessarily and properly a subject of 
distaste, or, in extreme cases, even of contempt: a person could not 
have the opposite qualities in due strength without entertaining 
these feelings. Though doing no wrong to any one, a person may 
so act as to compel us to judge him, and feel to him, as a fool, or 
as a being of an inferior order: and since this judgment and feeling 
are a fact which he would prefer to avoid, it is doing him a service 
to warn him of it beforehand, as of any other disagreeable conse- 
quence to which he exposes himself. It would be well, indeed, if 
this good office were much more freely rendered than the common 
notions of politeness at present permit, and if one person could 



ON LIBERTY 273 

honestly point out to another that he thinks him in fault, without 
being considered unmannerly or presuming. We have a right, also, 
in various ways, to act upon our unfavorable opinion of any one, 
not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours. 
We are not bound, for example, to seek his society; we have a right 
to avoid it (though not to parade the avoidance), for we have a 
right to choose the society most acceptable to us. We have a right, 
and it may be our duty, to caution others against him, if we think 
his example or conversation likely to have a pernicious effect on 
those with whom he associates. We may give others a preference 
over him in optional good offices, except those which tend to his 
improvement. In these various modes a person may suffer very 
severe penalties at the hands of others, for faults which directly 
concern only himself; but he suffers these penalties only in so far as 
they are the natural, and, as it were, the spontaneous consequences 
of the faults themselves, not because they are purposely inflicted on 
him for the sake of punishment. A person who shows rashness, 
obstinacy, self-conceit who cannot live within moderate means 
who cannot restrain himself from hurtful indulgences who pursues 
animal pleasures at the expense of those of feeling and intellect 
must expect to be lowered in the opinion of others, and to have a less 
share of their favorable sentiments, but of this he has no right to 
complain, unless he has merited their favor by special excellence in 
his social relations, and has thus established a title to their good 
offices, which is not affected by his demerits towards himself. 

What I contend for is, that the inconveniences which are strictly 
inseparable from the unfavorable judgment of others, are the only 
ones to which a person should ever be subjected for that portion of 
his conduct and character which concerns his own good, but which 
does not affect the interests of others in their relations with him. 
Acts injurious to others require a totally different treatment. En- 
croachment on their rights; infliction on them of any loss or damage 
not justified by his own rights; falsehood or duplicity in dealing 
with them; unfair or ungenerous use of advantages over them; even 
selfish abstinence from defending them against injury these are 
fit objects of moral reprobation, and, in grave cases, of moral retribu- 
tion and punishment. And not only these acts, but the dispositions 



274 JOHN STUART MILL 

which lead to them, are properly immoral, and fit subjects of disap- 
probation which may rise to abhorrence. Cruelty of disposition; 
malice and ill-nature; that most anti-social and odious of all passions, 
envy; dissimulation and insincerity; irascibility on insufficient cause, 
and resentment disproportioned to the provocation; the love of dom- 
ineering over others; the desire to engross more than one's share of 
advantages (the TrXeo^to, of the Greeks); the pride which derives 
gratification from the abasement of others; the egotism which thinks 
self and its concerns more important than everything else, and de- 
cides all doubtful questions in his own favor; these are moral vices, 
and constitute a bad and odious moral character: unlike the self- 
regarding faults previously mentioned, which are not properly im- 
moralities, and to whatever pitch they may be carried, do not con- 
stitute wickedness. They may be proofs of any amount of folly, or 
want of personal dignity and self-respect; but they are only a sub- 
ject of moral reprobation when they involve a breach of duty to 
others, for whose sake the individual is bound to have care for him- 
self. What are called duties to ourselves are not socially obligatory, 
unless circumstances render them at the same time duties to others. 
The term duty to oneself, when it means anything more than pru- 
dence, means self-respect or self-development; and for none of these 
is any one accountable to his fellow-creatures, because for none of 
them is it for the good of mankind that he be held accountable 
to them. 

The distinction between the loss of consideration which a person 
may rightly incur by defect of prudence or of personal dignity, and 
the reprobation which is due to him for an offence against the rights 
of others, is not a merely nominal distinction. It makes a vast dif- 
ference both in our feelings and in our conduct towards him, 
whether he displeases us in things in which we think we have a 
right to control him, or in things in which we know that we have 
not. If he displeases us, we may express our distaste, and we may 
stand aloof from a person as well as from a thing that displeases us; 
but we shall not therefore feel called on to make his life uncom- 
fortable. We shall reflect that he already bears, or will bear, the 
whole penalty of his error; if he spoils his life by mismanagement, 
we shall not, for that reason, desire to spoil it still further : instead of 



ON LIBERTY 275 

wishing to punish him, we shall rather endeavor to alleviate his 
punishment, by showing him how he may avoid or cure the evils 
his conduct tends to bring upon him. He may be to us an object of 
pity, perhaps of dislike, but not of anger or resentment; we shall 
not treat him like an enemy of society: the worst we shall think 
ourselves justified in doing is leaving him to himself, if we do not 
interfere benevolently by showing interest or concern for him. It 
is far otherwise if he has infringed the rules necessary for the protec- 
tion of his fellow-creatures, individually or collectively. The evil 
consequences of his acts do not then fall on himself, but on others; 
and society, as the protector of all its members, must retaliate on 
him; must inflict pain on him for the express purpose of punishment, 
and must take care that it be sufficiently severe. In the one case, 
he is an offender at our bar, and we are called on not only to sit in 
judgment on him, but, in one shape or another, to execute our 
own sentence: in the other case, it is not our part to inflict any suf- 
fering on him, except what may incidentally follow from our 
using the same liberty in the regulation of our own affairs, which 
we allow to him in his. 

The distinction here pointed out between the part of a person's 
life which concerns only himself, and that which concerns others, 
many persons will refuse to admit. How (it may be asked) can 
any part of the conduct of a member of society be a matter of 
indifference to the other members ? No person is an entirely isolated 
being; it is impossible for a person to do anything seriously or per- 
manently hurtful to himself, without mischief reaching at least to 
his near connections, and often far beyond them. If he injures his 
property, he does harm to those who directly or indirectly derived 
support from it, and usually diminishes, by a greater or less 
amount, the general resources of the community. If he deteriorates 
his bodily or mental faculties, he not only brings evil upon all who 
depended on him for any portion of their happiness, but disqualifies 
himself for rendering the services which he owes to his fellow- 
creatures generally; perhaps becomes a burden on their affection 
or benevolence; and if such conduct were very frequent, hardly any 
offence that is committed would detract more from the general sum 
of good. Finally, if by his vices or follies a person does no direct 



276 JOHN STUART MILL 

harm to others, he is nevertheless (it may be said) injurious by his 
example; and ought to be compelled to control himself, for the sake 
of those whom the sight or knowledge of his conduct might corrupt 
or mislead. 

And even (it will be added) if the consequences of misconduct 
could be confined to the vicious or thoughtless individual, ought 
society to abandon to their own guidance those who are manifestly 
unfit for it? If protection against themselves is confessedly due to 
children and persons under age, is not society equally bound to 
afford it to persons of mature years who are equally incapable of 
self-government? If gambling, or drunkenness, or incontinence, or 
idleness, or uncleanliness, are as injurious to happiness, and as great 
a hindrance to improvement, as many or most of the acts prohibited 
by law, why (it may be asked) should not law, so far as is consistent 
with practicability and social convenience, endeavor to repress these 
also? And as a supplement to the unavoidable imperfections of 
law, ought not opinion at least to organize a powerful police against 
these vices, and visit rigidly with social penalties those who are 
known to practise them ? There is no question here (it may be said) 
about restricting individuality, or impeding the trial of new and 
original experiments in living. The only things it is sought to pre- 
vent are things which have been tried and condemned from the 
beginning of the world until now; things which experience has 
shown not to be useful or suitable to any person's individuality. 
There must be some length of time and amount of experience, after 
which a moral or prudential truth may be regarded as established, 
and it is merely desired to prevent generation after generation from 
falling over the same precipice which has been fatal to their prede- 
cessors. 

I fully admit that the mischief which a person does to himself, 
may seriously affect, both through their sympathies and their inter- 
ests, those nearly connected with him, and in a minor degree, society 
at large. When, by conduct of this sort, a person is led to violate 
a distinct and assignable obligation to any other person or persons, 
the case is taken out of the self-regarding class, and becomes amen- 
able to moral disapprobation in the proper sense of the term. If, for 
example, a man, through intemperance or extravagance, becomes 



ON LIBERTY 277 

unable to pay his debts, or, having undertaken the moral respon- 
sibility of a family, becomes from the same cause incapable of sup- 
porting or educating them, he is deservedly reprobated, and might 
be justly punished; but it is for the breach of duty to his family 
or creditors, not for the extravagance. If the resources which ought 
to have been devoted to them, had been diverted from them for the 
most prudent investment, the moral culpability would have been 
the same. George Barnwell murdered his uncle to get money for his 
mistress, but if he had done it to set himself up in business, he would 
equally have been hanged. Again, in the frequent case of a man 
who causes grief to his family by addiction to bad habits, he deserves 
reproach for his unkindness or ingratitude; but so he may for culti- 
vating habits not in themselves vicious, if they are painful to those 
with whom he passes his life, or who from personal ties are de- 
pendent on him for their comfort. Whoever fails in the considera- 
tion generally due to the interests and feelings of others, not being 
compelled by some more imperative duty, or justified by allowable 
self -preference, is a subject of moral disapprobation for that failure, 
but not for the cause of it, nor for the errors, merely personal to 
himself, which may have remotely led to it. In like marner, when a 
person disables himself, by conduct purely self-regarding, from the 
performance of some definite duty incumbent on him to the public, 
he is guilty of a social offence. No person ought to be punished sim- 
ply for being drunk; but a soldier or a policeman should be pun- 
ished for being drunk on duty. Whenever, in short, there is a defi- 
nite damage, or a definite risk of damage, either to an individual 
or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of liberty, and 
placed in that of morality or law. 

But with regard to the merely contingent or, as it may be called, 
constructive injury which a person causes to society, by conduct 
which neither violates any specific duty to the public, nor occasions 
perceptible hurt to any assignable individual except himself; the in- 
convenience is one which society can afford to bear, for the sake of 
the greater good of human freedom. If grown persons are to be pun- 
ished for not taking proper care of themselves, I would rather it 
were for their own sake, than under pretence of preventing them 
from impairing their capacity of rendering to society benefits which 



278 JOHN STUART MILL 

society does not pretend it has a right to exact. But I cannot con- 
sent to argue the point as if society had no means of bringing 
its weaker members up to its ordinary standard of rational con- 
duct, except waiting till they do something irrational, and then pun- 
ishing them, legally or morally, for it. Society has had absolute 
power over them during all the early portion of their existence: it 
has had the whole period of childhood and nonage in which to try 
whether it could make them capable of rational conduct in life. 
The existing generation is master both of the training and the 
entire circumstances of the generation to come; it cannot indeed 
make them perfectly wise and good, because it is itself so lamentably 
deficient in goodness and wisdom; and its best efforts are not always, 
in individual cases, its most successful ones; but it is perfectly well 
able to make the rising generation, as a whole, as good as, and a little 
better than, itself. If society lets any considerable number of its 
members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by 
rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame 
for the consequences. Armed not only with all the powers of edu- 
cation, but with the ascendency which the authority of a received 
opinion always exercises over the minds who are least fitted to judge 
for themselves; and aided by the natural penalties which cannot be 
prevented from falling on those who incur the distaste or the con- 
tempt of those who know them; let not society pretend that it needs, 
besides all this, the power to issue commands and enforce obedience 
in the personal concerns of individuals, in which, on all principles 
of justice and policy, the decision ought to rest with those who are 
to abide the consequences. Nor is there anything which tends more 
to discredit and frustrate the better means of influencing conduct, 
than a resort to the worse. If there be among those whom it is 
attempted to coerce into prudence or temperance, any of the material 
of which vigorous and independent characters are made, they will 
infallibly rebel against the yoke. No such person will ever feel that 
others have a right to control him in his concerns, such as they 
have to prevent him from injuring them in theirs; and it easily 
comes to be considered a mark of spirit and courage to fly in the 
face of such usurped authority, and do with ostentation the exact 
opposite of what it enjoins; as in the fashion of grossness which 



ON LIBERTY 279 

succeeded, in the time of Charles II., to the fanatical moral intoler- 
ance of the Puritans. With respect to what is said of the necessity 
of protecting society from the bad example set to others by the 
vicious or the self-indulgent; it is true that bad example may have 
a pernicious effect, especially the example of doing wrong to others 
with impunity to the wrong-doer. But we are now speaking of con- 
duct which, while it does no wrong to others, is supposed to do 
great harm to the agent himself: and I do not see how those who 
believe this, can think otherwise than that the example, on the 
whole, must be more salutary than hurtful, since, if it displays the 
misconduct, it displays also the painful or degrading consequences 
which, if the conduct is justly censured, must be supposed to be in 
all or most cases attendant on it. 

But the strongest of all the arguments against the interference 
of the public with purely personal conduct, is that when it does 
interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong 
place. On questions of social morality, of duty to others, the opinion 
of the public, that is, of an overruling majority, though often wrong, 
is likely to be still oftener right; because on such questions they 
are only required to judge of their own interests; of the manner in 
which some mode of conduct, if allowed to be practised, would 
affect themselves. But the opinion of a similar majority, imposed 
as a law on the minority, on questions of self-regarding conduct, 
is quite as likely to be wrong as right; for in these cases public 
opinion means, at the best, some people's opinion of what is good 
or bad for other people; while very often it does not even mean 
that; the public, with the most perfect indifference, passing over 
the pleasure or convenience of those whose conduct they censure, 
and considering only their own preference. There are many who 
consider as an injury to themselves any conduct which they have 
a distaste for, and resent it as an outrage to their feelings; as a 
religious bigot, when charged with disregarding the religious feel- 
ings of others, has been known to retort that they disregard his 
feelings, by persisting in their abominable worship or creed. But 
there is no parity between the feeling of a person for his own opinion, 
and the feeling of another who is offended at his holding it; no 
more than between the desire of a thief to take a purse, and the 



280 JOHN STUART MILL 

desire of the right owner to keep it. And a person's taste is as 
much his own peculiar concern as his opinion or his purse. It is 
easy for any one to imagine an ideal public, which leaves the 
freedom and choice of individuals in all uncertain matters undis- 
turbed, and only requires them to abstain from modes of conduct 
which universal experience has condemned. But where has there 
been seen a public which set any such limit to its censorship? or 
when does the public trouble itself about universal experience. In 
its interferences with personal conduct it is seldom thinking of any- 
thing but the enormity of acting or feeling differently from itself; 
and this standard of judgment, thinly disguised, is held up to man- 
kind as the dictate of religion and philosophy, by nine tenths of all 
moralists and speculative writers. These teach that things are right 
because they are right; because we feel them to be so. They tell us 
to search in our own minds and hearts for laws of conduct binding 
on ourselves and on all others. What can the poor public do but 
apply these instructions, and make their own personal feelings of 
good and evil, if they are tolerably unanimous in them, obligatory 
on all the world? 

The evil here pointed out is not one which exists only in theory; 
and it may perhaps be expected that I should specify the instances 
in which the public of this age and country improperly invests its 
own preferences with the character of moral laws. I am not writing 
an essay on the aberrations of existing moral feeling. That is too 
weighty a subject to be discussed parenthetically, and by way of 
illustration. Yet examples are necessary, to show that the principle 
I maintain is of serious and practical moment, and that I am not 
endeavoring to erect a barrier against imaginary evils. And it is 
not difficult to show, by abundant instances, that to extend the bounds 
of what may be called moral police, until it encroaches on the most 
unquestionably legitimate liberty of the individual, is one of the 
most universal of all human propensities. 

As a first instance, consider the antipathies which men cherish on 
no better grounds than that persons whose religious opinions are 
different from theirs, do not practise their religious observances, 
especially their religious abstinences. To cite a rather trivial example, 
nothing in the creed or practice of Christians does more to envenom 



ON LIBERTY 28 1 

the hatred of Mahomedans against them, than the fact of their eating 
pork. There are few acts which Christians and Europeans regard 
with more unaffected disgust, than Mussulmans regard this par- 
ticular mode of satisfying hunger. It is, in the first place, an offence 
against their religion; but this circumstance by no means explains 
either the degree or the kind of their repugnance; for wine also is 
forbidden by their religion, and to partake of it is by all Mussulmans 
accounted wrong, but not disgusting. Their aversion to the flesh of 
the "unclean beast" is, on the contrary, of that peculiar character, 
resembling an instinctive antipathy, which the idea of uncleanness, 
when once it thoroughly sinks into the feelings, seems always to 
excite even in those whose personal habits are anything but 
scrupulously cleanly and of which the sentiment of religious im- 
purity, so intense in the Hindoos, is a remarkable example. Sup- 
pose now that in a people, of whom the majority were Mussulmans, 
that majority should insist upon not permitting pork to be eaten 
within the limits of the country. This would be nothing new in 
Mahomedan countries. 1 Would it be a legitimate exercise of the 
moral authority of public opinion? and if not, why not? The 
practice is really revolting to such a public. They also sincerely 
think that it is forbidden and abhorred by the Deity. Neither could 
the prohibition be censured as religious persecution. It might be 
religious in its origin, but it would not be persecution for religion, 
since nobody's religion makes it a duty to eat pork. The only tenable 
ground of condemnation would be, that with the personal tastes and 
self-regarding concerns of individuals the public has no business 
to interfere. 

To come somewhat nearer home: the majority of Spaniards con- 
sider it a gross impiety, offensive in the highest degree to the Supreme 
Being, to worship him in any other manner than the Roman Cath- 

1 The case of the Bombay Parsees is a curious instance in point. When this in- 
dustrious and enterprising tribe, the descendants of the Persian fire-worshippers, flying 
from their native country before the Caliphs, arrived in Western India, they were 
admitted to toleration by the Hindoo sovereigns, on condition of not eating beef. 
When those regions afterwards fell under the dominion of Mahomedan conquerors, 
the Parsees obtained from them a continuance of indulgence, on condition of re- 
fraining from pork. What was at first obedience to authority became a second nature, 
and the Parsees to this day abstain both from beef and pork. Though not required 
by their religion, the double abstinence has had time to grow into a custom of their 
tribe; and custom, in the East, is a religion. 



282 JOHN STUART MILL 

olic; and no other public worship is lawful on Spanish soil. The 
people of all Southern Europe look upon a married clergy as not 
only irreligious, but unchaste, indecent, gross, disgusting. What do 
Protestants think of these perfectly sincere feelings, and of the 
attempt to enforce them against non-Catholics? Yet, if mankind 
are justified in interfering with each other's liberty in things which 
do not concern the interests of others, on what principle is it possible 
consistently to exclude these cases? or who can blame people for 
desiring to suppress what they regard as a scandal in the sight of 
God and man? 

No stronger case can be shown for prohibiting anything which 
is regarded as a personal immorality, than is made out for suppress- 
ing these practices in the eyes of those who regard them as impieties; 
and unless we are willing to adopt the logic of persecutors, and to 
say that we may persecute others because we are right, and that they 
must not persecute us because they are wrong, we must beware of 
admitting a principle of which we should resent as a gross injustice 
the application to ourselves. 

The preceding instances may be objected to, although unreason- 
ably, as drawn from contingencies impossible among us: opinion, 
in this country, not being likely to enforce abstinence from meats, 
or to interfere with people for worshipping, and for either marrying 
or not marrying, according to their creed or inclination. The next 
example, however, shall be taken from an interference with liberty 
which we have by no means passed all danger of. Wherever the 
Puritans have been sufficiently powerful, as in New England, and 
in Great Britain at the time of the Commonwealth, they have 
endeavored, with considerable success, to put down all public, and 
nearly all private, amusements: especially music, dancing, public 
games, or other assemblages for purposes of diversion, and the 
theatre. There are still in this country large bodies of persons by 
whose notions of morality and religion these recreations are con- 
demned; and those persons belonging chiefly to the middle class, 
who are the ascendant power in the present social and political con- 
dition of the kingdom, it is by no means impossible that persons 
of these sentiments may at some time or other command a majority 
in Parliament. How will the remaining portion of the community 



ON LIBERTY 283 

like to have the amusements that shall be permitted to them regulated 
by the religious and moral sentiments of the stricter Calvinists and 
Methodists? Would they not, with considerable peremptoriness, 
desire these intrusively pious members of society to mind their own 
business ? This is precisely what should be said to every government 
and every public, who have the pretension that no person shall 
enjoy any pleasure which they think wrong. But if the principle 
of the pretension be admitted, no one can reasonably object to its 
being acted on in the sense of the majority, or other preponderating 
power in the country; and all persons must be ready to conform to 
the idea of a Christian commonwealth, as understood by the early 
settlers in New England, if a religious profession similar to theirs 
should ever succeed in regaining its lost ground, as religions sup- 
posed to be declining have so often been known to do. 

To imagine another contingency, perhaps more likely to be 
realized than the one last mentioned. There is confessedly a strong 
tendency in the modern world towards a democratic constitution of 
society, accompanied or not by popular political institutions. It is 
affirmed that in the country where this tendency is most completely 
realized where both society and the government are most dem- 
ocratic the United States the feeling of the majority, to whom 
any appearance of a more showy or costly style of living than they 
can hope to rival is disagreeable, operates as a tolerably effectual 
sumptuary law, and that in many parts of the Union it is really 
difficult for a person possessing a very large income, to find any 
mode of spending it, which will not incur popular disapprobation. 
Though such statements as these are doubtless much exaggerated 
as a representation of existing facts, the state of things they describe 
is not only a conceivable and possible, but a probable result of dem- 
ocratic feeling, combined with the notion that the public has a 
right to a veto on the manner in which individuals shall spend their 
incomes. We have only further to suppose a considerable diffusion 
of Socialist opinions, and it may become infamous in the eyes of 
the majority to possess more property than some very small amount, 
or any income not earned by manual labor. Opinions similar in prin- 
ciple to these, already prevail widely among the artisan class, and 
weigh oppressively on those who are amenable to the opinion 



284 JOHN STUART MILL 

chiefly of that class, namely, its own members. It is known that the 
bad workmen who form the majority of the operatives in many 
branches of industry, are decidedly of opinion that bad workmen 
ought to receive the same wages as good, and that no one ought to 
be allowed, through piecework or otherwise, to earn by superior 
skill or industry more than others can without it. And they employ 
a moral police, which occasionally becomes a physical one, to deter 
skilful workmen from receiving, and employers from giving, a 
larger remuneration for a more useful service. If the public have 
any jurisdiction over private concerns, I cannot see that these 
people are in fault, or that any individual's particular public can be 
blamed for asserting the same authority over his individual conduct, 
which the general public asserts over people in general. 

But, without dwelling upon supposititious cases, there are, in our 
own day, gross usurpations upon the liberty of private life actually 
practised, and still greater ones threatened with some expectation 
of success, and opinions proposed which assert an unlimited right 
in the public not only to prohibit by law everything which it thinks 
wrong, but in order to get at what it thinks wrong, to prohibit any 
number of things which it admits to be innocent. 

Under the name of preventing intemperance the people of one 
English colony, and of nearly half the United States, have been 
interdicted by law from making any use whatever of fermented 
drinks, except for medical purposes: for prohibition of their sale 
is in fact, as it is intended to be, prohibition of their use. And 
though the impracticability of executing the law has caused its 
repeal in several of the States which had adopted it, including the 
one from which it derives its name, an attempt has notwithstanding 
been commenced, and is prosecuted with considerable zeal by many 
of the professed philanthropists, to agitate for a similar law in this 
country. The association, or "Alliance" as it terms itself, which has 
been formed for this purpose, has acquired some notoriety through 
the publicity given to a correspondence between its Secretary and 
one of the very few English public men who hold that a politician's 
opinions ought to be founded on principles. Lord Stanley's share in 
this correspondence is calculated to strengthen the hopes already 
built on him, by those who know how rare such qualities as are 



ON LIBERTY 285 

manifested in some of his public appearances, unhappily are among 
those who figure in political life. The organ of the Alliance, who 
would "deeply deplore the recognition of any principle which could 
be wrested to justify bigotry and persecution," undertakes to point 
out the "broad and impassable barrier" which divides such prin- 
ciples from those of the association. "All matters relating to thought, 
opinion, conscience, appear to me," he says, "to be without the 
sphere of legislation; all pertaining to social act, habit, relation, 
subject only to a discretionary power vested in the State itself, 
and not in the individual, to be within it." No mention is made 
of a third class, different from either of these, viz., acts and habits 
which are not social, but individual; although it is to this class, 
surely, that the act of drinking fermented liquors belongs. Selling 
fermented liquors, however, is trading, and trading is a social act. 
But the infringement complained of is not on the liberty of the 
seller, but on that of the buyer and consumer; since the State might 
just as well forbid him to drink wine, as purposely make it im- 
possible for him to obtain it. The Secretary, however, says, "I claim, 
as a citizen, a right to legislate whenever my social rights are 
invaded by the social act of another." And now for the definition 
of these "social rights." "If anything invades my social rights, 
certainly the traffic in strong drink does. It destroys my primary 
right of security, by constantly creating and stimulating social dis- 
order. It invades my right of equality, by deriving a profit from 
the creation of a misery, I am taxed to support. It impedes my right 
to free moral and intellectual development, by surrounding my path 
with dangers, and by weakening and demoralizing society, from 
which I have a right to claim mutual aid and intercourse." A theory 
of "social rights," the like of which probably never before found its 
way into distinct language being nothing short of this that it is 
the absolute social right of every individual, that every other indi- 
vidual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever 
fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and 
entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the 
grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any 
single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which 
it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom what- 



286 JOHN STUART MILL 

ever, except perhaps to that of holding opinions in secret, without 
ever disclosing them; for the moment an opinion which I consider 
noxious, passes any one's lips, it invades all the "social rights" at- 
tributed to me by the Alliance. The doctrine ascribes to all mankind 
a vested interest in each other's moral, intellectual, and even physical 
perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own 
standard. 

Another important example of illegitimate interference with the 
rightful liberty of the individual, not simply threatened, but long 
since carried into triumphant effect, is Sabbatarian legislation. With- 
out doubt, abstinence on one day in the week, so far as the exigencies 
of life permit, from the usual daily occupation, though in no respect 
religiously binding on any except Jews, is a highly beneficial custom. 
And inasmuch as this custom cannot be observed without a general 
consent to that effect among the industrious classes, therefore, in so 
far as some persons by working may impose the same necessity on 
others, it may be allowable and right that the law should guarantee 
to each, the observance by others of the custom, by suspending the 
greater operations of industry on a particular day. But this justifica- 
tion, grounded on the direct interest which others have in each 
individual's observance of the practice, does not apply to the self- 
chosen occupations in which a person may think fit to employ his 
leisure; nor does it hold good, in the smallest degree, for legal re- 
strictions on amusements. It is true that the amusement of some is 
the day's work of others; but the pleasure, not to say the useful 
recreation, of many, is worth the labor of a few, provided the 
occupation is freely chosen, and can be freely resigned. The oper- 
atives are perfectly right in thinking that if all worked on Sunday, 
seven days' work would have to be given for six days' wages: but 
so long as the great mass of employments are suspended, the small 
number who for the enjoyment of others must still work, obtain a 
proportional increase of earnings; and they are not obliged to follow 
those occupations, if they prefer leisure to emolument. If a further 
remedy is sought, it might be found in the establishment by custom 
of a holiday on some other day of the week for those particular 
classes of persons. The only ground, therefore, on which restrictions 
on Sunday amusements can be defended, must be that they are 



ON LIBERTY 287 

religiously wrong; a motive of legislation which never can be too 
earnestly protested against. "Deorum injurix Diis curs." It remains 
to be proved that society or any of its officers holds a commission 
from on high to avenge any supposed offence to Omnipotence, 
which is not also a wrong to our fellow-creatures. The notion that 
it is one man's duty that another should be religious, was the founda- 
tion of all the religious persecutions ever perpetrated, and if ad- 
mitted, would fully justify them. Though the feeling which breaks 
out in the repeated attempts to stop railway travelling on Sunday, 
in the resistance to the opening of Museums, and the like, has not 
the cruelty of the old persecutors, the state of mind indicated by it is 
fundamentally the same. It is a determination not to tolerate others 
in doing what is permitted by their religion, because it is not per- 
mitted by the persecutor's religion. It is a belief that God not only 
abominates the act of the misbeliever, but will not hold us guiltless 
if we leave him unmolested. 

I cannot refrain from adding to these examples of the little account 
commonly made of human liberty, the language of downright 
persecution which breaks out from the press of this country, when- 
ever it feels called on to notice the remarkable phenomenon of Mor- 
monism. Much might be said on the unexpected and instructive 
fact, that an alleged new revelation, and a religion, founded on it, 
the product of palpable imposture, not even supported by the prestige 
of extraordinary qualities in its founder, is believed by hundreds of 
thousands, and has been made the foundation of a society, in the 
age of newspapers, railways, and the electric telegraph. What here 
concerns us is, that this religion, like other and better religions, has 
its martyrs; that its prophet and founder was, for his teaching, put 
to death by a mob; that others of its adherents lost their lives by 
the same lawless violence; that they were forcibly expelled, in a 
body, from the country in which they first grew up; while, now 
that they have been chased into a solitary recess in the midst of a 
desert, many in this country openly declare that it would be right 
(only that it is not convenient) to send an expedition against them, 
and compel them by force to conform to the opinions of other people. 
The article of the Mormonite doctrine which is the chief provocative 
to the antipathy which thus breaks through the ordinary restraints 



288 JOHN STUART MILL 

of religious tolerance, is its sanction of polygamy; which, though 
permitted to Mahomedans, and Hindoos, and Chinese, seems to 
excite unquenchable animosity when practised by persons who 
speak English, and profess to be a kind of Christians. No one has 
a deeper disapprobation than I have of this Mormon institution; 
both for other reasons, and because, far from being in any way 
countenanced by the principle of liberty, it is a direct infraction of 
that principle, being a mere riveting of the chains of one half of the 
community, and an emancipation of the other from reciprocity of 
obligation towards them. Still, it must be remembered that this 
relation is as much voluntary on the part of the women concerned 
in it, and who may be deemed the sufferers by it, as is the case with 
any other form of the marriage institution; and however surprising 
this fact may appear, it has its explanation in the common ideas and 
customs of the world, which teaching women to think marriage the 
one thing needful, make it intelligible that many a woman should 
prefer being one of several wives, to not being a wife at all. Other 
countries are not asked to recognize such unions, or release any 
portion of their inhabitants from their own laws on the score of 
Mormonite opinions. But when the dissentients have conceded to 
the hostile sentiments of others, far more than could justly be de- 
manded; when they have left the countries to which their doctrines 
were unacceptable, and established themselves in a remote corner of 
the earth, which they have been the first to render habitable to 
human beings; it is difficult to see on what principles but those of 
tyranny they can be prevented from living there under what laws 
they please, provided they commit no aggression on other nations, 
and allow perfect freedom of departure to those who are dissatisfied 
with their ways. A recent writer, in some respects of considerable 
merit, proposes (to use his own words,) not a crusade, but a civil- 
izade, against this polygamous community, to put an end to what 
seems to him a retrograde step in civilization. It also appears so to 
me, but I am not aware that any community has a right to force 
another to be civilized. So long as the sufTerers by the bad law do 
not invoke assistance from other communities, I cannot admit that 
persons entirely unconnected with them ought to step in and require 
that a condition of things with which all who are directly interested 



ON LIBERTY 289 

appear to be satisfied, should be put an end to because it is a scandal 
to persons some thousands of miles distant, who have no part or 
concern in it. Let them send missionaries, if they please, to preach 
against it; and let them, by any fair means, (of which silencing the 
teachers is not one,) oppose the progress of similar doctrines among 
their own people. If civilization has got the better of barbarism 
when barbarism had the world to itself, it is too much to profess 
to be afraid lest barbarism, after having been fairly got under, should 
revive and conquer civilization. A civilization that can thus suc- 
cumb to its vanquished enemy must first have become so degenerate, 
that neither its appointed priests and teachers, nor anybody else, has 
the capacity, or will take the trouble, to stand up for it. If this be 
so, the sooner such a civilization receives notice to quit, the better. 
It can only go on from bad to worse, until destroyed and regenerated 
(like the Western Empire) by energetic barbarians. 



CHAPTER V 

APPLICATIONS 

THE principles asserted in these pages must be more gen- 
erally admitted as the basis for discussion of details, before 
a consistent application of them to all the various depart- 
ments of government and morals can be attempted with any prospect 
of advantage. The few observations I propose to make on questions 
of detail, are designed to illustrate the principles, rather than to follow 
them out to their consequences. I offer, not so much applications, as 
specimens of application; which may serve to bring into greater 
clearness the meaning and limits of the two maxims which together 
form the entire doctrine of this Essay and to assist the judgment in 
holding the balance between them, in the cases where it appears 
doubtful which of them is applicable to the case. 

The maxims are, first, that the individual is not accountable to 
society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no 
person but himself. Advice, instruction, persuasion, and avoidance 
by other people, if thought necessary by them for their own good, 
are the only measures by which society can justifiably express its 
dislike or disapprobation of his conduct. Secondly, that for such 
actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is 
accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punish- 
ments, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite 
for its protection. 

In the first place, it must by no means be supposed, because dam- 
age, or probability of damage, to the interests of others, can alone 
justify the interference of society, that therefore it always does justify 
such interference. In many cases, an individual, in pursuing a 
legitimate object, necessarily and therefore legitimately causes pain 
or loss to others, or intercepts a good which they had a reasonable 
hope of obtaining. Such oppositions of interest between individuals 
often arise from bad social institutions, but are unavoidable while 

290 



ON LIBERTY 29! 

those institutions last; and some would be unavoidable under any 
institutions. Whoever succeeds in an overcrowded profession, or 
in a competitive examination; whoever is preferred to another in 
any contest for an object which both desire, reaps benefit from the 
loss of others, from their wasted exertion and their disappointment. 
But it is, by common admission, better for the general interest of 
mankind, that persons should pursue their objects undeterred by 
this sort of consequences. In other words, society admits no right, 
either legal or moral, in the disappointed competitors, to immunity 
from this kind of suffering; and feels called on to interfere, only 
when means of success have been employed which it is contrary to 
the general interest to permit namely, fraud or treachery, and force. 
Again, trade is a social act. Whoever undertakes to sell any de- 
scription of goods to the public, does what affects the interest of other 
persons, and of society in general; and thus his conduct, in principle, 
comes within the jurisdiction of society: accordingly, it was once 
held to be the duty of governments, in all cases which were con- 
sidered of importance, to fix prices, and regulate the processes of 
manufacture. But it is now recognized, though not till after a long 
struggle, that both the cheapness and the good quality of com- 
modities are most effectually provided for by leaving the producers 
and sellers perfectly free, under the sole check of equal freedom to 
the buyers for supplying themselves elsewhere. This is the so-called 
doctrine of Free Trade, which rests on grounds different from, 
though equally solid with, the principle of individual liberty asserted 
in this Essay. Restrictions on trade, or on production for purposes 
of trade, are indeed restraints; and all restraint, qua restraint, is 
an evil : but the restraints in question affect only that part of conduct 
which society is competent to restrain, and are wrong solely because 
they do not really produce the results which it is desired to produce 
by them. As the principle of individual liberty is not involved in the 
doctrine of Free Trade so neither is it in most of the questions 
which arise respecting the limits of that doctrine: as for example, 
what amount of public control is admissible for the prevention of 
fraud by adulteration; how far sanitary precautions, or arrange- 
ments to protect work-people employed in dangerous occupations, 
should be enforced on employers. Such questions involve con- 



292 JOHN STUART MILL 

siderations of liberty, only in so far as leaving people to themselves 
is always better, cceteris paribus, than controlling them: but that 
they may be legitimately controlled for these ends, is in principle 
undeniable. On the other hand, there are questions relating to 
interference with trade which are essentially questions of liberty; 
such as the Maine Law, already touched upon; the prohibition of 
the importation of opium into China; the restriction of the sale of 
poisons; all cases, in short, where the object of the interference is 
to make it impossible or difficult to obtain a particular commodity. 
These interferences are objectionable, not as infringements on the 
liberty of the producer or seller, but on that of the buyer. 

One of these examples, that of the sale of poisons, opens a new 
question; the proper limits of what may be called the functions of 
police; how far liberty may legitimately be invaded for the preven- 
tion of crime, or of accident. It is one of the undisputed functions 
of government to take precautions against crime before it has been 
committed, as well as to detect and punish it afterwards. The 
preventive function of government, however, is far more liable to 
be abused, to the prejudice of liberty, than the punitory function; 
for there is hardly any part of the legitimate freedom of action of a 
human being which would not admit of being represented, and 
fairly too, as increasing the facilities for some form or other of 
delinquency. Nevertheless, if a public authority, or even a private 
person, sees any one evidently preparing to commit a crime, they are 
not bound to look on inactive until the crime is committed, but may 
interfere to prevent it. If poisons were never bought or used for 
any purpose except the commission of murder, it would be right to 
prohibit their manufacture and sale. They may, however, be wanted 
not only for innocent but for useful purposes, and restrictions can- 
not be imposed in the one case without operating in the other. 
Again, it is a proper office of public authority to guard against acci- 
dents. If either a public officer or any one else saw a person attempt- 
ing to cross a bridge which had been ascertained to be unsafe, and 
there were no time to warn him of his danger, they might seize 
him and turn him back without any real infringement of his liberty; 
for liberty consists in doing what one desires, and he does not 
desire to fall into the river. Nevertheless, when there is not a cer- 



ON LIBERTY 293 

tainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself 
can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to 
incur the risk: in this case, therefore, (unless he is a child, or 
delirious, or in some state of excitement or absorption incompatible 
with the full use of the reflecting faculty,) he ought, I conceive, to 
be only warned of the danger; not forcibly prevented from exposing 
himself to it. Similar considerations, applied to such a question as 
the sale of poisons, may enable us to decide which among the pos- 
sible modes of regulation are or are not contrary to principle. Such 
a precaution, for example, as that of labelling the drug with some 
word expressive of its dangerous character, may be enforced without 
violation of liberty: the buyer cannot wish not to know that the 
thing he possesses has poisonous qualities. But to require in all 
cases the certificate of a medical practitioner, would make it some- 
times impossible, always expensive, to obtain the article for legitimate 
uses. The only mode apparent to me, in which difficulties may be 
thrown in the way of crime committed through this means, without 
any infringement, worth taking into account, upon the liberty of 
those who desire the poisonous substance for other purposes, con- 
sists in providing what, in the apt language of Bentham, is called 
"preappointed evidence." This provision is familiar to every one in 
the case of contracts. It is usual and right that the law, when a 
contract is entered into, should require as the condition of its 
enforcing performance, that certain formalities should be observed, 
such as signatures, attestation of witnesses, and the like, in order 
that in case of subsequent dispute, there may be evidence to prove 
that the contract was really entered into, and that there was nothing 
in the circumstances to render it legally invalid: the effect being, 
to throw great obstacles in the way of fictitious contracts, or contracts 
made in circumstances which, if known, would destroy their validity. 
Precautions of a similar nature might be enforced in the sale of 
articles adapted to be instruments of crime. The seller, for example, 
might be required to enter in a register the exact time of the trans- 
action, the name and address of the buyer, the precise quality and 
quantity sold; to ask the purpose for which it was wanted, and 
record the answer he received. When there was no medical pre- 
scription, the presence of some third person might be required, to 



294 JOHN STUART MILL 

bring home the fact to the purchaser, in case there should after- 
wards be reason to believe that the article had been applied to 
criminal purposes. Such regulations would in general be no material 
impediment to obtaining the article, but a very considerable one to 
making an improper use of it without detection. 

The right inherent in society, to ward off crimes against itself by 
antecedent precautions, suggests the obvious limitations to the 
maxim, that purely self-regarding misconduct cannot properly be 
meddled with in the way of prevention or punishment. Drunken- 
nesses, for example, in ordinary cases, is not a fit subject for legis- 
lative interference; but I should deem it perfectly legitimate that a 
person, who had once been convicted of any act of violence to 
others under the influence of drink, should be placed under a 
special legal restriction, personal to himself; that if he were after- 
wards found drunk, he should be liable to a penalty, and that if 
when in that state he committed another offence, the punishment to 
which he would be liable for that other offence should be increased 
in severity. The making himself drunk, in a person whom drunken- 
ness excites to do harm to others, is a crime against others. So, 
again, idleness, except in a person receiving support from the public, 
or except when it constitutes a breach of contract, cannot without 
tyranny be made a subject of legal punishment; but if either from 
idleness or from any other avoidable cause, a man fails to perform 
his legal duties to others, as for instance to support his children, 
it is no tyranny to force him to fulfil that obligation, by com- 
pulsory labor, if no other means are available. 

Again, there are many acts which, being directly injurious only 
to the agents themselves, ought not to be legally interdicted, but 
which, if done publicly, are a violation of good manners, and com- 
ing thus within the category of offences against others, may right- 
fully be prohibited. Of this kind are offences against decency; on 
which it is unnecessary to dwell, the rather as they are only con- 
nected indirectly with our subject, the objection to publicity being 
equally strong in the case of many actions not in themselves con- 
demnable, nor supposed to be so. 

There is another question to which an answer must be found, 
consistent with the principles which have been laid down. In cases 






ON LIBERTY 295 

of personal conduct supposed to be blameable, but which respect 
for liberty precludes society from preventing or punishing, because 
the evil directly resulting falls wholly on the agent; what the agent 
is free to do, ought other persons to be equally free to counsel or 
instigate? This question is not free from difficulty. The case of a 
person who solicits another to do an act, is not strictly a case of self- 
regarding conduct. To give advice or offer inducements to any one, 
is a social act, and may therefore, like actions in general which 
affect others, be supposed amenable to social control. But a little 
reflection corrects the first impression, by showing that if the case is 
not strictly within the definition of individual liberty, yet the reasons 
on which the principle of individual liberty is grounded, are appli- 
cable to it. If people must be allowed, in whatever concerns only 
themselves, to act as seems best to themselves at their own peril, 
they must equally be free to consult with one another about what is 
fit to be so done; to exchange opinions, and give and receive sug- 
gestions. Whatever it is permitted to do, it must be permitted to 
advise to do. The question is doubtful, only when the instigator 
derives a personal benefit from his advice; when he makes it his 
occupation, for subsistence, or pecuniary gain, to promote what 
society and the State consider to be an evil. Then, indeed, a new 
element of complication is introduced; namely, the existence of 
classes of persons with an interest opposed to what is considered 
as the public weal, and whose mode of living is grounded on the 
counteraction of it. Ought this to be interfered with, or not? For- 
nication, for example, must be tolerated, and so must gambling; but 
should a person be free to be a pimp, or to keep a gambling-house ? 
The case is one of those which lie on the exact boundary line be- 
tween two principles, and it is not at once apparent to which of the 
two it properly belongs. There are arguments on both sides. On 
the side of toleration it may be said, that the fact of following any- 
thing as an occupation, and living or profiting by the practice of it, 
cannot make that criminal which would otherwise be admissible; 
that the act should either be consistently permitted or consistently 
prohibited; that if the principles which we have hitherto defended 
are true, society has no business, as society, to decide anything to 
be wrong which concerns only the individual; that it cannot go 



296 JOHN STUART MILL 

beyond dissuasion, and that one person should be as free to persuade, 
as another to dissuade. In opposition to this it may be contended, 
that although the public, or the State, are not warranted in authori- 
tatively deciding, for purposes of repression or punishment, that 
such or such conduct affecting only the interests of the individual is 
good or bad, they are fully justified in assuming, if they regard it 
as bad, that its being so or not is at least a disputable question: That, 
this being supposed, they cannot be acting wrongly in endeavoring 
to exclude the influence of solicitations which are not disinterested, 
of instigators who cannot possibly be impartial who have a direct 
personal interest on one side, and that side the one which the State 
believes to be wrong, and who confessedly promote it for personal 
objects only. There can surely, it may be urged, be nothing lost, 
no sacrifice of good, by so ordering matters that persons shall make 
their election, either wisely or foolishly, on their own prompting, 
as free as possible from the arts of persons who stimulate their 
inclinations for interested purposes of their own. Thus (it may 
be said) though the statutes respecting unlawful games are utterly 
indefensible though all persons should be free to gamble in their 
own or each other's houses, or in any place of meeting established 
by their own subscriptions, and open only to the members and their 
visitors yet public gambling-houses should not be permitted. It is 
true that the prohibition is never effectual, and that whatever amount 
of tyrannical power is given to the police, gambling-houses can 
always be maintained under other pretences; but they may be 
compelled to conduct their operations with a certain degree of secrecy 
and mystery, so that nobody knows anything about them but those 
who seek them; and more than this, society ought not to aim at. 
There is considerable force in these arguments. I will not venture 
to decide whether they are sufficient to justify the moral anomaly of 
punishing the accessary, when the principal is (and must be) allowed 
to go free; of fining or imprisoning the procurer, but not the 
fornicator, the gambling-house keeper, but not the gambler. Still 
less ought the common operations of buying and selling to be 
interfered with on analogous grounds. Almost every article which 
is bought and sold may be used in excess, and the sellers have a 
pecuniary interest in encouraging that excess; but no argument can 



ON LIBERTY 297 

be founded on this, in favor, for instance, of the Maine Law; be- 
cause the class of dealers in strong drinks, though interested in their 
abuse, are indispensably required for the sake of their legitimate use. 
The interest, however, of these dealers in promoting intemperance 
is a real evil, and justifies the State in imposing restrictions and re- 
quiring guarantees, which but for that justification would be in- 
fringements of legitimate liberty. 

A further question is, whether the State while it permits, should 
nevertheless indirectly discourage conduct which it deems contrary 
to the best interests of the agent; whether, for example, it should 
take measures to render the means of drunkenness more costly, or 
add to the difficulty of procuring them, by limiting the number 
of the places of sale. On this as on most other practical questions, 
many distinctions require to be made. To tax stimulants for the 
sole purpose of making them more difficult to be obtained, is a 
measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition; and 
would be justifiable only if that were justifiable. Every increase of 
cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the 
augmented price; and to those who do, it is a penalty laid on them 
for gratifying a particular taste. Their choice of pleasures, and 
their mode of expending their income, after satisfying their legal 
and moral obligations to the State and to individuals, are their 
own concern, and must rest with their own judgment. These con- 
siderations may seem at first sight to condemn the selection of 
stimulants as special subjects of taxation for purposes of revenue. 
But it must be remembered that taxation for fiscal purposes is 
absolutely inevitable; that in most countries it is necessary that a 
considerable part of that taxation should be indirect; that the State, 
therefore, cannot help imposing penalties, which to some persons 
may be prohibitory, on the use of some articles of consumption. It 
is hence the duty of the State to consider, in the imposition of 
taxes, what commodities the consumers can best spare; and a fortiori, 
to select in preference those of which it deems the use, beyond a 
very moderate quantity, to be positively injurious. Taxation, there- 
fore, of stimulants, up to the point which produces the largest 
amount of revenue (supposing that the State needs all the revenue 
which it yields) is not only admissible, but to be approved of. 



298 JOHN STUART MILL 

The question of making the sale of these commodities a more or 
less exclusive privilege, must be answered differently, according to 
the purposes to which the restriction is intended to be subservient. 
All places of public resort require the restraint of a police, and 
places of this kind peculiarly, because offences against society are 
especially apt to originate there. It is, therefore, fit to confine the 
power of selling these commodities (at least for consumption on 
the spot) to persons of known or vouched-for respectability of con- 
duct; to make such regulations respecting hours of opening and 
closing as may be requisite for public surveillance, and to withdraw 
the license if breaches of the peace repeatedly take place through 
the connivance or incapacity of the keeper of the house, or if it 
becomes a rendezvous for concocting and preparing offences against 
the law. Any further restriction I do not conceive to be, in prin- 
ciple, justifiable. The limitation in number, for instance, of beer 
and spirit-houses, for the express purpose of rendering them more 
difficult of access, and diminishing the occasions of temptation, not 
only exposes all to an inconvenience because there are some by 
whom the facility would be abused, but is suited only to a state of 
society in which the laboring classes are avowedly treated as children 
or savages, and placed under an education of restraint, to fit them 
for future admission to the privileges of freedom. This is not the 
principle on which the laboring classes are professedly governed in 
any free country; and no person who sets due value on freedom 
will give his adhesion to their being so governed, unless after all 
efforts have been exhausted to educate them for freedom and govern 
them as freemen, and it has been definitively proved that they can 
only be governed as children. The bare statement of the alternative 
shows the absurdity of supposing that such efforts have been made 
in any case which needs be considered here. It is only because the 
institutions of this country are a mass of inconsistencies, that things 
find admittance into our practice which belong to the system of 
despotic, or what is called paternal, government, while the general 
freedom of our institutions precludes the exercise of the amount of 
control necessary to render the restraint of any real efficacy as a 
moral education. 

It was pointed out in an early part of this Essay, that the liberty 



ON LIBERTY 299 

of the individual, in things wherein the individual is alone con- 
cerned, implies a corresponding liberty in any number of indi- 
viduals to regulate by mutual agreement such things as regard 
them jointly, and regard no persons but themselves. This question 
presents no difficulty, so long as the will of all the persons implicated 
remains unaltered; but since that will may change, it is often 
necessary, even in things in which they alone are concerned, that 
they should enter into engagements with one another; and when 
they do, it is fit, as a general rule, that those engagements should be 
kept. Yet in the laws probably, of every country, this general rule 
has some exceptions. Not only persons are not held to engagements 
which violate the rights of third parties, but it is sometimes con- 
sidered a sufficient reason for releasing them from an engagement, 
that it is injurious to themselves. In this and most other civilized 
countries, for example, an engagement by which a person should 
sell himself, or allow himself to be sold, as a slave, would be null 
and void; neither enforced by law nor by opinion. The ground for 
thus limiting his power of voluntarily disposing of his own lot in 
life, is apparent, and is very clearly seen in this extreme case. The 
reason for not interfering, unless for the sake of others, with a 
person's voluntary acts, is consideration for his liberty. His volun- 
tary choice is evidence that what he so chooses is desirable, or at 
the least endurable, to him, and his good is on the whole best pro- 
vided for by allowing him to take his own means of pursuing it. 
But by selling himself for a slave, he abdicates his liberty; he fore- 
goes any future use of it, beyond that single act. He therefore 
defeats, in his own case, the very purpose which is the justifica- 
tion of allowing him to dispose of himself. He is no longer free; 
but is thenceforth in a position which has no longer the presumption 
in its favor, that would be afforded by his voluntarily remaining in 
it. The principle of freedom cannot require that he should be free 
not to be free. It is not freedom, to be allowed to alienate his 
freedom. These reasons, the force of which is so conspicuous in 
this peculiar case, are evidently of far wider application; yet a 
limit is everywhere set to them by the necessities of life, which 
continually require, not indeed that we should resign our freedom, 
but that we should consent to this and the other limitation of it. 



300 JOHN STUART MILL 

The principle, however, which demands uncontrolled freedom of 
action in all that concerns only the agents themselves, requires that 
those who have become bound to one another, in things which 
concern no third party, should be able to release one another from 
the engagement: and even without such voluntary release, there 
are perhaps no contracts or engagements, except those that relate 
to money or money's worth, of which one can venture to say 
that there ought to be no liberty whatever of retractation. Baron 
Wilhelm von Humboldt, in the excellent Essay from which I have 
already quoted, states it as his conviction, that engagements which 
involve personal relations or services, should never be legally bind- 
ing beyond a limited duration of time; and that the most important 
of these engagements, marriage, having the peculiarity that its 
objects are frustrated unless the feelings of both the parties are in 
harmony with it, should require nothing more than the declared 
will of either party to dissolve it. This subject is too important, 
and too complicated, to be discussed in a parenthesis, and I touch 
on it only so far as is necessary for purposes of illustration. If the 
conciseness and generality of Baron Humboldt's dissertation had 
not obliged him in this instance to content himself with enunciating 
his conclusion without discussing the premises, he would doubtless 
have recognized that the question cannot be decided on grounds so 
simple as those to which he confines himself. When a person, either 
by express promise or by conduct, has encouraged another to rely 
upon his continuing to act in a certain way to build expectations 
and calculations, and stake any part of his plan of life upon that 
supposition, a new series of moral obligations arises on his part 
towards that person, which may possibly be overruled, but can 
not be ignored. And again, if the relation between two contracting 
parties has been followed by consequences to others; if it has placed 
third parties in any peculiar position, or, as in the case of marriage, 
has even called third parties into existence, obligations arise on the 
part of both the contracting parties towards those third persons, the 
fulfilment of which, or at all events, the mode of fulfilment, must 
be greatly affected by the continuance or disruption of the relation 
between the original parties to the contract. It does not follow, nor 
can I admit, that these obligations extend to requiring the fulfilment 



ON LIBERTY 30 1 

of the contract at all costs to the happiness o the reluctant party; 
but they are a necessary element in the question; and even if, as 
Von Humboldt maintains, they ought to make no difference in the 
legal freedom of the parties to release themselves from the engage- 
ment (and I also hold that they ought not to make much difference), 
they necessarily make a great difference in the moral freedom. A 
person is bound to take all these circumstances into account, before 
resolving on a step which may affect such important interests of 
others; and if he does not allow proper weight to those interests, he 
is morally responsible for the wrong. I have made these obvious 
remarks for the better illustration of the general principle of liberty, 
and not because they are at all needed on the particular question, 
which, on the contrary, is usually discussed as if the interest of 
children was everything, and that of grown persons nothing. 

I have already observed that, owing to the absence of any recog- 
nized general principles, liberty is often granted where it should 
be withheld, as well as withheld where it should be granted; and 
one of the cases in which, in the modern European world, the 
sentiment of liberty is the strongest, is a case where, in my view, 
it is altogether misplaced. A person should be free to do as he 
likes in his own concerns; but he ought not to be free to do as he 
likes in acting for another under the pretext that the affairs of 
another are his own affairs. The State, while it respects the liberty 
of each in what specially regards himself, is bound to maintain a 
vigilant control over his exercise of any power which it allows 
him to possess over others. This obligation is almost entirely dis- 
regarded in the case of the family relations, a case, in its direct 
influence on human happiness, more important than all the others 
taken together. The almost despotic power of husbands over wives 
needs not be enlarged upon here, because nothing more is 
needed for the complete removal of the evil, than that wives should 
have the same rights, and should receive the protection of law in the 
same manner, as all other persons; and because, on this subject, the 
defenders of established injustice do not avail themselves of the 
plea of liberty, but stand forth openly as the champions of power. 
It is in the case of children, that misapplied notions of liberty are 
a real obstacle to the fulfilment by the State of its duties. One 



302 JOHN STUART MILL 

would almost think that a man's children were supposed to be 
literally, and not metaphorically, a part of himself, so jealous is 
opinion of the smallest interference of law with his absolute and 
exclusive control over them; more jealous than of almost any inter- 
ference with his own freedom of action: so much less do the gen- 
erality of mankind value liberty than power. Consider, for example, 
the case of education. Is it not almost a self-evident axiom, that the 
State should require and compel the education, up to a certain 
standard, of every human being who is born its citizen? Yet who 
is there that is not afraid to recognize and assert this truth? Hardly 
any one indeed will deny that it is one of the most sacred duties 
of the parents (or, as law and usage now stand, the father), after 
summoning a human being into the world, to give to that being an 
education fitting him to perform his part well in life towards others 
and towards himself. But while this is unanimously declared to 
be the father's duty, scarcely anybody, in this country, will bear 
to hear of obliging him to perform it. Instead of his being required 
to make any exertion or sacrifice for securing education to the child, 
it is left to his choice to accept it or not when it is provided gratis! 
It still remains unrecognized, that to bring a child into existence 
without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for 
its body, but instruction and training for its mind, is a moral crime, 
both against the unfortunate offspring and against society; and that 
if the parent does not fulfil this obligation, the State ought to see 
it fulfilled, at the charge, as far as possible, of the parent. 

Were the duty of enforcing universal education once admitted, 
there would be an end to the difficulties about what the State 
should teach, and how it should teach, which now convert the 
subject into a mere battle-field for sects and parties, causing the 
time and labor which should have been spent in educating, to be 
wasted in quarrelling about education. If the government would 
make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it 
might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to 
parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and 
content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer 
classes of children, and defraying the entire school expenses of those 
who have no one else to pay for them. The objections which are 



ON LIBERTY 303 

urged with reason against State education, do not apply to the 
enforcement of education by the State, but to the State's taking 
upon itself to direct that education: which is a totally different 
thing. That the whole or any large part of the education of the 
people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecat- 
ing. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of 
character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, 
as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A 
general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people 
to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts 
them is that which pleases the predominant power in the govern- 
ment, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or 
the majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient 
and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by 
natural tendency to one over the body. An education established 
and controlled by the State, should only exist, if it exist at all, as 
one among many competing experiments, carried on for the pur- 
pose of example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a certain 
standard of excellence. Unless, indeed, when society in general is 
in so backward a state that it could not or would not provide for 
itself any proper institutions of education, unless the government 
undertook the task; then, indeed, the government may, as the less 
of two great evils, take upon itself the business of schools and 
universities, as it may that of joint-stock companies, when private 
enterprise, in a shape fitted for undertaking great works of industry 
does not exist in the country. But in general, if the country contains 
a sufficient number of persons qualified to provide education under 
government auspices, the same persons would be able and willing 
to give an equally good education on the voluntary principle, under 
the assurance of remuneration afforded by a law rendering education 
compulsory, combined with State aid to those unable to defray the 
expense. 

The instrument for enforcing the law could be no other than 
public examinations, extending to all children, and beginning at 
an early age. An age might be fixed at which every child must be 
examined, to ascertain if he (or she) is able to read. If a child 
proves unable, the father, unless he has some sufficient ground of 



304 JOHN STUART MILL 

excuse, might be subjected to a moderate fine, to be worked out, 
if necessary, by his labor, and the child might be put to school at 
his expense. Once in every year the examination should be renewed, 
with a gradually extending range of subjects, so as to make the 
universal acquisition, and what is more, retention, of a certain mini- 
mum of general knowledge, virtually compulsory. Beyond that 
minimum, there should be voluntary examinations on all subjects, 
at which all who come up to a certain standard of proficiency might 
claim a certificate. To prevent the State from exercising through 
these arrangements, an improper influence over opinion, the knowl- 
edge required for passing an examination (beyond the merely in- 
strumental parts of knowledge, such as languages and their use) 
should, even in the higher class of examinations, be confined to facts 
and positive science exclusively. The examinations on religion, poli- 
tics, or other disputed topics, should not turn on the truth or false- 
hood of opinions, but on the matter of fact that such and such an 
opinion is held, on such grounds, by such authors, or schools, or 
churches. Under this system, the rising generation would be no 
worse off in regard to all disputed truths, than they are at present; 
they would be brought up either churchmen or dissenters as they 
now are, the State merely taking care that they should be instructed 
churchmen, or instructed dissenters. There would be nothing to 
hinder them from being taught religion, if their parents chose, at the 
same schools where they were taught other things. All attempts by 
the State to bias the conclusions of its citizens on disputed subjects, 
are evil; but it may very properly offer to ascertain and certify that 
a person possesses the knowledge requisite to make his conclusions, 
on any given subject, worth attending to. A student of philosophy 
would be the better for being able to stand an examination both in 
Locke and in Kant, whichever of the two he takes up with, or even 
if with neither: and there is no reasonable objection to examining 
an atheist in the evidences of Christianity, provided he is not re- 
quired to profess a belief in them. The examinations, however, in 
the higher branches of knowledge should, I conceive, be entirely 
voluntary. It would be giving too dangerous a power to gov- 
ernments, were they allowed to exclude any one from professions, 
even from the profession of teacher, for alleged deficiency of quali- 



ON LIBERTY 305 

fkations: and I think, with Wilhelm von Humboldt, that degrees, 
or other public certificates of scientific or professional acquirements, 
should be given to all who present themselves for examination, and 
stand the test; but that such certificates should confer no advantage 
over competitors, other than the weight which may be attached to 
their testimony by public opinion. 

It is not in the matter of education only that misplaced notions 
of liberty prevent moral obligations on the part of parents from 
being recognized, and legal obligations from being imposed, where 
there are the strongest grounds for the former always, and in many 
cases for the latter also. The fact itself, of causing the existence of 
a human being, is one of the most responsible actions in the range 
of human life. To undertake this responsibility to bestow a life 
which may be either a curse or a blessing unless the being on whom 
it is to be bestowed will have at least the ordinary chances of a desir- 
able existence, is a crime against that being. And in a country either 
over-peopled or threatened with being so, to produce children, be- 
yond a very small number, with the effect of reducing the reward of 
labor by their competition, is a serious offence against all who live 
by the remuneration of their labor. The laws which, in many 
countries on the Continent, forbid marriage unless the parties can 
show that they have the means of supporting a family, do not 
exceed the legitimate powers of the State: and whether such laws 
be expedient or not (a question mainly dependent on local circum- 
stances and feelings), they are not objectionable as violations of 
liberty. Such laws are interferences of the State to prohibit a mis- 
chievous act an act injurious to others, which ought to be a subject 
of reprobation, and social stigma, even when it is not deemed expedi- 
ent to superadd legal punishment. Yet the current ideas of liberty, 
which bend so easily to real infringements of the freedom of the 
individual, in things which concern only himself, would repel the 
attempt to put any restraint upon his inclinations when the con- 
sequence of their indulgence is a life, or lives, of wretchedness and 
depravity to the offspring, with manifold evils to those sufficiently 
within reach to be in any way affected by their actions. When we 
compare the strange respect of mankind for liberty, with their 
strange want of respect for it, we might imagine that a man had 



306 JOHN STUART MILL 

an indispensable right to do harm to others, and no right at all to 
please himself without giving pain to any one. 

I have reserved for the last place a large class of questions respect- 
ing the limits of government interference, which, though closely 
connected with the subject of this Essay, do not, in strictness, belong 
to it. These are cases in which the reasons against interference do 
not turn upon the principle of liberty: the question is not about 
restraining the actions of individuals, but about helping them: it is 
asked whether the government should do, or cause to be done, 
something for their benefit, instead of leaving it to be done by 
themselves, individually, or in voluntary combination. 

The objections to government interference, when it is not such 
as to involve infringement of liberty, may be of three kinds. 

The first is, when the thing to be done is likely to be better done 
by individuals than by the government. Speaking generally, there 
is no one so fit to conduct any business, or to determine how or by 
whom it shall be conducted, as those who are personally interested 
in it. This principle condemns the interferences, once so common, 
of the legislature, or the officers of government, with the ordinary 
processes of industry. But this part of the subject has been sufficiently 
enlarged upon by political economists, and is not particularly related 
to the principles of this Essay. 

The second objection is more nearly allied to our subject. In 
many cases, though individuals may not do the particular thing so 
well, on the average, as the officers of government, it is nevertheless 
desirable that it should be done by them, rather than by the govern- 
ment, as a means to their own mental education a mode of 
strengthening their active faculties, exercising their judgment, and 
giving them a familiar knowledge of the subjects with which they 
are thus left to deal. This is a principal, though not the sole, recom- 
mendation of jury trial (in cases not political); of free and popular 
local and municipal institutions; of the conduct of industrial and 
philanthropic enterprises by voluntary associations. These are not 
questions of liberty, and are connected with that subject only by 
remote tendencies; but they are questions of development. It be- 
longs to a different occasion from the present to dwell on these 
things as parts of national education; as being, in truth, the 



ON LIBERTY 307 

peculiar training of a citizen, the practical part of the political educa- 
tion of a free people, taking them out of the narrow circle of per- 
sonal and family selfishness, and accustoming them to the compre- 
hension of joint interests, the management of joint concerns 
habituating them to act from public or semi-public motives, and 
guide their conduct by aims which unite instead of isolating them 
from one another. Without these habits and powers, a free con- 
stitution can neither be worked nor preserved, as is exemplified by 
the too-often transitory nature of political freedom in countries 
where it does not rest upon a sufficient basis of local liberties. The 
management of purely local business by the localities, and of the 
great enterprises of industry by the union of those who voluntarily 
supply the pecuniary means, is further recommended by all the 
advantages which have been set forth in this Essay as belonging to 
individuality of development, and diversity of modes of action. 
Government operations tend to be everywhere alike. With indi- 
viduals and voluntary associations, on the contrary, there are varied 
experiments, and endless diversity of experience. What the State 
can usefully do, is to make itself a central depository, and active 
circulator and difFuser, of the experience resulting from many trials. 
Its business is to enable each experimentalist to benefit by the 
experiments of others, instead of tolerating no experiments but 
its own. 

The third, and most cogent reason for restricting the interference 
of government, is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its 
power. Every function superadded to those already exercised by 
the government, causes its influence over hopes and fears to be 
more widely diffused, and converts, more and more, the active 
and ambitious part of the public into hangers-on of the government, 
or of some party which aims at becoming the government. If the 
roads, the railways, the banks, the insurance offices, the great joint- 
stock companies, the universities, and the public charities, were all 
of them branches of the government; if, in addition, the municipal 
corporations and local boards, with all that now devolves on them, 
became departments of the central administration; if the employes 
of all these different enterprises were appointed and paid by the 
government, and looked to the government for every rise in life; not 



308 JOHN STUART MILL 

all the freedom of the press and popular constitution of -the legis- 
lature would make this or any other country free otherwise than in 
name. And the evil would be greater, the more efficiently and 
scientifically the administrative machinery was constructed the 
more skilful the arrangements for obtaining the best qualified hands 
and heads with which to work it. In England it has of late been 
proposed that all the members of the civil service of government 
should be selected by competitive examination, to obtain for those 
employments the most intelligent and instructed persons procurable; 
and much has been said and written for and against this proposal. 
One of the arguments most insisted on by its opponents is that the 
occupation of a permanent official servant of the State does not 
hold out sufficient prospects of emolument and importance to attract 
the highest talents, which will always be able to find a more inviting 
career in the professions, or in the service of companies and other 
public bodies. One would not have been surprised if this argument 
had been used by the friends of the proposition, as an answer to its 
principal difficulty. Coming from the opponents it is strange enough. 
What is urged as an objection is the safety-valve of the proposed 
system. If indeed all the high talent of the country could be drawn 
into the service of the government, a proposal tending to bring about 
that result might well inspire uneasiness. If every part of the 
business of society which required organized concert, or large and 
comprehensive views, were in the hands of the government, and if 
government offices were universally filled by the ablest men, all the 
enlarged culture and practised intelligence in the country, except 
the purely speculative, would be concentrated in a numerous bureau- 
cracy, to whom alone the rest of the community would look for all 
things: the multitude for direction and dictation in all they had 
to do; the able and aspiring for personal advancement. To be 
admitted into the ranks of this bureaucracy, and when admitted, to 
rise therein, would be the sole objects of ambition. Under this 
regime, not only is the outside public ill-qualified, for want of 
practical experience, to criticize or check the mode of operation 
of the bureaucracy, but even if the accidents of despotic or the 
natural working of popular institutions occasionally raise to the 
summit a ruler or rulers of reforming inclinations, no reform can 



ON LIBERTY 309 

be effected which is contrary to the interest of the bureaucracy. 
Such is the melancholy condition of the Russian empire, as is 
shown in the accounts of those who have had sufficient opportunity 
of observation. The Czar himself is powerless against the bureau- 
cratic body: he can send any one of them to Siberia, but he cannot 
govern without them, or against their will. On every decree of his 
they have a tacit veto, by merely refraining from carrying it into 
effect. In countries of more advanced civilization and of a more 
insurrectionary spirit the public, accustomed to expect everything 
to be done for them by the State, or at least to do nothing for them- 
selves without asking from the State not only leave to do it, but even 
how it is to be done, naturally hold the State responsible for all 
evil which befalls them, and when the evil exceeds their amount of 
patience, they rise against the government and make what is called 
a revolution; whereupon somebody else, with or without legitimate 
authority from the nation, vaults into the seat, issues his orders to 
the bureaucracy, and everything goes on much as it did before; 
the bureaucracy being unchanged, and nobody else being capable of 
taking their place. 

A very different spectacle is exhibited among a people accustomed 
to transact their own business. In France, a large part of the people 
having been engaged in military service, many of whom have held 
at least the rank of non-commissioned officers, there are in every 
popular insurrection several persons competent to take the lead, and 
improvise some tolerable plan of action. What the French are in 
military affairs, the Americans are in every kind of civil business; 
let them be left without a government, every body of Americans 
is able to improvise one, and to carry on that or any other public 
business with a sufficient amount of intelligence, order and decision. 
This is what every free people ought to be: and a people capable 
of this is certain to be free; it will never let itself be enslaved by 
any man or body of men because these are able to seize and pull the 
reins of the central administration. No bureaucracy can hope to 
make such a people as this do or undergo anything that they do not 
like. But where everything is done through the bureaucracy, nothing 
to which the bureaucracy is really adverse can be done at all. The 
constitution of such countries is an organization of the experience 



3IO JOHN STUART MILL 

and practical ability of the nation, into a disciplined body for the 
purpose of governing the rest; and the more perfect that organ- 
ization is in itself, the more successful in drawing to itself and educat- 
ing for itself the persons of greatest capacity from all ranks of the 
community, the more complete is the bondage of all, the members 
of the bureaucracy included. For the governors are as much the 
slaves of their organization and discipline, as the governed are of 
the governors. A Chinese mandarin is as much the tool and creature 
of a despotism as the humblest cultivator. An individual Jesuit is 
to the utmost degree of abasement the slave of his order though the 
order itself exists for the collective power and importance of its 
members. 

It is not, also, to be forgotten, that the absorption of all the prin- 
cipal ability of the country into the governing body is fatal, sooner 
or later, to the mental activity and progressiveness of the body itself. 
Banded together as they are working a system which, like all 
systems, necessarily proceeds in a great measure by fixed rules the 
official body are under the constant temptation of sinking into 
indolent routine, or, if they now and then desert that mill-horse 
round, of rushing into some half-examined crudity which has struck 
the fancy of some leading member of the corps: and the sole check 
to these closely allied, though seemingly opposite, tendencies, the 
only stimulus which can keep the ability of the body itself up to a 
high standard, is liability to the watchful criticism of equal ability 
outside the body. It is indispensable, therefore, that the means 
should exist, independently of the government, of forming such 
ability, and furnishing it with the opportunities and experience 
necessary for a correct judgment of great practical affairs. If we 
would possess permanently a skilful and efficient body of func- 
tionaries above all, a body able to originate and willing to adopt 
improvements; if we would not have our bureaucracy degenerate 
into a pedantocracy, this body must not engross all the occupations 
which form and cultivate the faculties required for the government 
of mankind. 

To determine the point at which evils, so formidable to human 
freedom and advancement begin, or rather at which they begin 
to predominate over the benefits attending the collective application 



ON LIBERTY 311 

of the force of society, under its recognized chiefs, for the removal 
of the obstacles which stand in the way of its well-being, to secure 
as much of the advantages of centralized power and intelligence, as 
can be had without turning into governmental channels too great 
a proportion of the general activity, is one of the most difficult and 
complicated questions in the art of government. It is, in a great 
measure, a question of detail, in which many and various con- 
siderations must be kept in view, and no absolute rule can be laid 
down. But I believe that the practical principle in which safety 
resides, the ideal to be kept in view, the standard by which to test 
all arrangements intended for overcoming the difficulty, may be 
conveyed in these words: the greatest dissemination of power con- 
sistent with efficiency; but the greatest possible centralization of 
information, and diffusion of it from the centre. Thus, in municipal 
administration, there would be, as in the New England States, a 
very minute division among separate officers, chosen by the localities, 
of all business which is not better left to the persons directly inter- 
ested; but besides this, there would be, in each department of local 
affairs, a central superintendence, forming a branch of the general 
government. The organ of this superintendence would concentrate, 
as in a focus, the variety of information and experience derived 
from the conduct of that branch of public business in all the localities, 
from everything analogous which is done in foreign countries, and 
from the general principles of political science. This central organ 
should have a right to know all that is done, and its special duty 
should be that of making the knowledge acquired in one place 
available for others. Emancipated from the petty prejudices and 
narrow views of a locality by its elevated position and comprehensive 
sphere of observation, its advice would naturally carry much author- 
ity; but its actual power, as a permanent institution, should, I con- 
ceive, be limited to compelling the local officers to obey the laws 
laid down for their guidance. In all things not provided for by 
general rules, those officers should be left to their own judgment, 
under responsibility to their constituents. For the violation of 
rules, they should be responsible to law, and the rules themselves 
should be laid down by the legislature; the central administrative 
authority only watching over their execution, and if they were not 



312 JOHN STUART MILL 

properly carried into effect, appealing, according to the nature of 
the case, to the tribunal to enforce the law, or to the constituencies 
to dismiss the functionaries who had not executed it according to 
its spirit. Such, in its general conception, is the central superin- 
tendence which the Poor Law Board is intended to exercise over the 
administrators of the Poor Rate throughout the country. Whatever 
powers the Board exercises beyond this limit, were right and neces- 
sary in that peculiar case, for the cure of rooted habits of mal- 
administration in matters deeply affecting not the localities merely, 
but the whole community; since no locality has a moral right to 
make itself by mismanagement a nest of pauperism, necessarily 
overflowing into other localities, and impairing the moral and 
physical condition of the whole laboring community. The powers 
of administrative coercion and subordinate legislation possessed by 
the Poor Law Board (but which, owing to the state of opinion on 
the subject, are very scantily exercised by them), though perfectly 
justifiable in a case of a first-rate national interest, would be wholly 
out of place in the superintendence of interests purely local. But 
a central organ of information and instruction for all the localities, 
would be equally valuable in all departments of administration. A 
government cannot have too much of the kind of activity which does 
not impede, but aids and stimulates, individual exertion and develop- 
ment. The mischief begins when, instead of calling forth the activity 
and powers of individuals and bodies, it substitutes its own activity 
for theirs; when, instead of informing, advising, and upon occasion 
denouncing, it makes them work in fetters or bids them stand aside 
and does their work instead of them. The worth of a State, in the 
long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State 
which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and ele- 
vation, to a little more of administrative skill or that semblance of 
it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State, which 
dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments 
in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small 
men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the per- 
fection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in 
the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in 
order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred 
to banish. 



CHARACTERISTICS 

BY 
THOMAS CARLYLE 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

THOMAS CARLYLE was born at Ecclefechan in the south of Scotland, 
December 4, 1795. His father, a rigorous Calvinist belonging to the 
seceding "Burgher Kirk," was a stone-mason, a man of stern and up- 
right character with a gift of fiery speech. Thomas began his education 
at home, went next to the village school, thence to the grammar school 
at Annan, and in 1809 walked to Edinburgh, a hundred miles away, 
and entered the University with a view to preparing for the ministry. 
On finishing his arts course, he was appointed mathematical usher at 
Annan and two years later at Kirkcaldy, where he formed an intimate 
friendship with Edward Irving. But he hated teaching, and, as he had 
abandoned his orthodox views and could no longer think of preaching, 
he returned to Edinburgh to study for the bar, supporting himself by 
private tutoring and writing for encyclopedias. These years, 1819-1822, 
he regarded as the most miserable of his life. Tormented with dyspepsia, 
torn with religious perplexity, with no prospects and no profession, he 
found comfort only in the affection of his family. It was about this time 
that the study of German led him to Goethe, who proved his chief aid 
in his struggles to gain spiritual peace. 

Through Irving Carlyle obtained a position as tutor to Charles and 
Arthur Buller at a salary that enabled him to help his family in sub- 
stantial ways. This engagement lasted for two years, during which he 
translated Legendre's "Geometry" and Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister," 
and wrote a "Life of Schiller." His relation with the Bullers led him to 
London, and for a short time to Paris; and in his "Reminiscences" we 
have a graphic picture of the unfavorable impression made on him by 
fashionable and literary society. 

He now retired to a farm near his father's house, and spent a peaceful 
year, chiefly in translating. In 1826 he married Jane Baillie Welsh, the 
brilliant and beautiful daughter of a doctor in Haddington, whom he 
had met through Irving. Miss Welsh was descended on one side from 
John Knox, on the other from the gipsies, and, it was claimed, William 
Wallace; and her temperament did not belie her ancestry. She had been 
much courted, and her wooing by Carlyle was as ominous as it was 
extraordinary. Over their subsequent domestic relations there has been a 
vast amount of unseemly controversy, no one condemning Carlyle more 
severely than he did himself. Yet it may be argued that they found in 
their marriage as much satisfaction as either of them was capable of 



3 1 6 INTRODUCTION 

finding in wedded life. Carlyle's absorption in his work and his career 
undoubtedly led to much neglect and suffering on the part of his wife, 
but it is clear that the expressions of remorse in his writings after her 
death are not fairly to be taken as judicial evidence against him. 

For the first eighteen months after marriage, the Carlyles lived in 
Edinburgh, where they shared in the most distinguished intellectual 
society of the city, and where Carlyle formed with Francis Jeffrey a pleas- 
ant and useful relation. Jeffrey accepted articles for the "Edinburgh 
Review," and their success there opened to Carlyle the pages of other 
periodicals. The first two reviews were on Richter and on German 
Literature, which, with his translations and later writings in the same 
field, gained him recognition as a pioneer of German literature in 
England, and brought him generous personal acknowledgments from 
Goethe. 

In spite of these successes, the financial affairs of the Carlyles were still 
far from satisfactory, and to reduce expenses they retreated to the farm 
of Craigenputtock, which belonged to Mrs. Carlyle. Here they lived for 
more than six years, in an isolation broken only by occasional visits from 
guests, notable among whom were the Jeffreys and Emerson. It was 
here that the quasi-autobiographical "Sartor Resartus" was written, and 
more German articles, the market for which, however, grew duller and 
duller. A visit to London in 1831, for which he had to borrow money 
from Jeffrey, led to new relations with publishers and editors; and four 
months in Edinburgh broadened his range of subjects. But, finally, 
solitude and the need of money drove them to London, where they 
settled in 1834 in the house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, where they lived 
for the rest of their lives. 

The most important event of the earlier years of the London period 
was the ripening of Carlyle's friendship with J. S. Mill. To this inter- 
course was due his undertaking his "History of the French Revolution," 
published in 1837. Meanwhile, he succeeded in getting sorely needed 
funds by lecturing, giving four courses in successive springs, the last of 
which was his well-known "Heroes and Hero-worship." These relieved 
him from pressing necessities, and with the recognition of the brilliant 
qualities of his "French Revolution" came the turn in his fortunes. He 
gained many friends, among whom were such men as John Sterling, 
whose life he afterward was to write with sympathy and charm; F. D. 
Maurice, J. G. Lockhart, R. M. Milnes, afterwards Lord Houghton, and 
the Barings; and he was often sought out by young inquirers. Emerson 
had introduced his works to America, with the result of both fame and 



INTRODUCTION 317 

profit. He was already becoming a noted figure in intellectual circles in 
London. 

His political ideas were put into definite shape in his "Chartism" 
(1839), and, if any one had ever doubted it, it now became clear that 
he was never to be classed with any of the established political parties. 
"Past and Present," a contrast between medieval monastic life and 
modern conditions, still further emphasized his separation from both 
Tories and Radicals. While these shorter works were being put forth, 
he was laboring on his next great book, the "Life and Letters of Oliver 
Cromwell"; and when this appeared in 1845 his position as one of the 
leading men of letters of the day was thoroughly established. 

After a year or two mainly occupied with political writing, most of it 
at once powerful in style and ineffective in result, he settled down to 
another great task, a life of Frederick the Great, which occupied his 
main energies till 1865, and extended his reputation both on the Continent 
and at home. In this year he was elected Lord Rector of Edinburgh 
University. The Inaugural Address, which constitutes the sole duty of 
this honorary office, he delivered the next year; and on his journey south 
after a triumphal reception he was met at Dumfries by the news of his 
wife's death. She was buried in the Abbey Kirk at Haddington; and 
the epitaph which her husband placed upon her grave tells what the 
blow meant for him. It runs thus: "In her bright existence she had 
more sorrows than are common, but also a soft invincibility, a capacity 
of discernment, and a noble loyalty of heart which are rare. For forty 
years she 'was the true and loving helpmate of her husband, and by act 
and word unweariedly forwarded him as none else could in all of worthy 
that he did or attempted. She died at London, 2ist April, 1866, sud- 
denly snatched from him, and the light of his life as if gone out." 

And, indeed, the light of his life had gone out. He was henceforth a 
broken man. He revised his collected works, wrote his "Reminiscences," 
but undertook no new tasks. He was now at the head of his profession, 
and surrounded by friends and admirers; honors were showered on him 
at home and abroad; but he lived in a gloom that deepened to the end. 
He died on February 4, 1881, and was buried in the old kirkyard at 
Ecclefechan. 

Of the works by Carlyle here printed, "Characteristics" is a condensed 
and telling statement of some of his most fundamental ideas; the essay 
on "Sir Walter Scott" exhibits, both in its strength and in its short- 
comings, the domination of ethical over esthetic considerations in his 
estimate of literature, and contains besides many characteristic generali- 



INTRODUCTION 

zations on human life and conduct; the "Inaugural Address," the sub- 
ject of which is nominally the "Reading of Books," summarizes rapidly 
his own intellectual history, and digresses in true Carlylean fashion into 
religion, ethics, history, and a variety of other topics. It is written in an 
exceptionally simple and straightforward style, admirably suited to the 
occasion; the two other papers represent more truly his habitual manner 
of expression often abrupt, often exaggerated, sometimes grotesque, 
but, to use his own words of his "French Revolution," coming "direct 
and flamingly from the heart of a living man." 

This style was, indeed, highly characteristic of its owner. The endless 
labor he put into his histories, the passion of his political convictions, the 
profound earnestness of his moral and religious preaching, were com- 
bined with a thirst for effective expression that led him to shatter any 
convention that stood in the way of truth, and gave a weight and edge 
to his utterance that make it a thing unique in English literature. Com- 
plex and inconsistent to the point of paradox, absolutely sincere yet 
exaggerated and over-emphatic, violent to brutality yet tender of heart, 
a Radical to the Tories and a Tory to the Radicals, Carlyle formed no 
school, yet was one of the most stimulating and potent influences of his 
century. Over his character and his message the voices of controversy 
have not yet died down, but whoever turns to his work finds coursing 
everywhere through it the red blood of a man. 



CHARACTERISTICS 1 

[1831] 

THE healthy know not of their health, but only the sick: 
this is the Physician's Aphorism; and applicable in a far 
wider sense than he gives it. We may say, it holds no less 
in moral, intellectual, political, poetical, than in merely corporeal 
therapeutics; that wherever, or in what shape soever, powers of the 
sort which can be named vital are at work, herein lies the test of 
their working right or working wrong. 

In the Body, for example, as all doctors are agreed, the first con- 
dition of complete health is, that each organ perform its function, 
unconsciously, unheeded; let but any organ announce its separate 
existence, were it even boastfully, and for pleasure, not for pain, then 
already has one of those unfortunate 'false centres of sensibility' 
established itself, already is derangement there. The perfection of 
bodily well-being is that the collective bodily activities seem one; 
and be manifested, moreover, not in themselves, but in the action 
they accomplish. If a Dr. Kitchiner boast that his system is in high 
order, Dietetic Philosophy may indeed take credit; but the true 
Peptician was that Countryman who answered that, 'for his part, 
he had no system.' In fact, unity, agreement is always silent, or 
soft- voiced; it is only discord that loudly proclaims itself. So long 
as the several elements of Life, all fitly adjusted, can pour forth their 
movement like harmonious tuned strings, it is a melody and unison ; 
Life, from its mysterious fountains, flows out as in celestial music 

1 EDINBURGH REVIEW, No. 108. i. An Essay on the Origin and Prospects of 
Man. By Thomas Hope. 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1831. 

2. Philosophise he Vorlesungen, insbesondere iiber Philosophic der Sprache und des 
Wortes. Geschrieben und vorgetragen zu Dresden im December, 1828, und in den 
ersten Tagen des Januars, 1829 (Philosophical Lectures, especially on the Philosophy 
of Language and the Gift of Speech. Written and delivered at Dresden in December, 
1828, and the early days of January, 1829). By Friedrich von Schlegel. 8vo. Vienna, 
1830. 

319 



32O THOMAS CARLYLE 

and diapason, which also, like that other music of the spheres, 
even because it is perennial and complete, without interruption and 
without imperfection, might be fabled to escape the ear. Thus too, 
in some languages, is the state of health well denoted by a term 
expressing unity; when we feel ourselves as we wish to be, we say 
that we are whole. 

Few mortals, it is to be feared, are permanently blessed with that 
felicity of 'having no system'; nevertheless, most of us, looking back 
on young years, may remember seasons of a light, aerial trans- 
lucency and elasticity and perfect freedom; the body had not yet 
become the prison-house of the soul, but was its vehicle and imple- 
ment, like a creature of the thought, and altogether pliant to its 
bidding. We knew not that we had limbs, we only lifted, hurled and 
leapt; through eye and ear, and all avenues of sense, came clear 
unimpeded tidings from without, and from within issued clear 
victorious force; we stood as in the centre of Nature, giving and 
receiving, in harmony with it all; unlike Virgil's Husbandmen, 
'too happy because we did not know our blessedness.' In those 
days, health and sickness were foreign traditions that did not con- 
cern us; our whole being was as yet One, the whole man like an 
incorporated Will. Such, were Rest or ever-successful Labour the 
human lot, might our life continue to be: a pure, perpetual, un- 
regarded music; a beam of perfect white light, rendering all things 
visible, but itself unseen, even because it was of that perfect white- 
ness, and no irregular obstruction had yet broken it into colours. 
The beginning of Inquiry is Disease: all Science, if we consider 
well, as it must have originated in the feeling of something being 
wrong, so it is and continues to be but Division, Dismemberment, 
and partial healing of the wrong. Thus, as was of old written, the 
Tree of Knowledge springs from a root of evil, and bears fruits of 
good and evil. Had Adam remained in Paradise, there had been 
no Anatomy and no Metaphysics. 

But, alas, as the Philosopher declares, 'Life itself is a disease; a 
working incited by suffering'; action from passion! The memory 
of that first state of Freedom and paradisaic Unconsciousness has 
faded away into an ideal poetic dream. We stand here too conscious 
of many things: with Knowledge, the symptom of Derangement, 



CHARACTERISTICS 321 

we must even do our best to restore a little Order. Life is, in few 
instances, and at rare intervals, the diapason of a heavenly melody; 
oftenest the fierce jar of disruptions and convulsions, which, do 
what we will, there is no disregarding. Nevertheless, such is still 
the wish of Nature on our behalf; in all vital action, her manifest 
purpose and effort is, that we should be unconscious of it, and like 
the peptic Countryman, never know that we 'have a system.' For, 
indeed, vital action everywhere is emphatically a means, not an 
end; Life is not given us for the mere sake of Living, but always 
with an ulterior external Aim: neither is it on the process, on the 
means, but rather on the result, that Nature, in any of her doings, 
is wont to intrust us with insight and volition. Boundless as is the 
domain of man, it is but a small fractional proportion of it that 
he rules with Consciousness and by Forethought: what he can 
contrive, nay, what he can altogether know and comprehend, is 
essentially the mechanical, small; the great is ever, in one sense or 
other, the vital; it is essentially the mysterious, and only the surface 
of it can be understood. But Nature, it might seem, strives, like a 
kind mother, to hide from us even this, that she is a mystery: she 
will have us rest on her beautiful and awful bosom as if it were our 
secure home; on the bottomless boundless Deep, whereon all human 
things fearfully and wonderfully swim, she will have us walk and 
build, as if the film which supported us there (which any scratch of 
a bare bodkin will rend asunder, any sputter of a pistol-shot in- 
stantaneously burn up) were no film, but a solid rock-foundation. 
Forever in the neighbourhood of an inevitable Death, man can 
forget that he is born to die; of his Life, which, strictly meditated, 
contains in it an Immensity and an Eternity, he can conceive lightly, 
as of a simple implement wherewith to do day-labour and earn 
wages. So cunningly does Nature, the mother of all highest Art, 
which only apes her from afar, 'body forth the Finite from the 
Infinite'; and guide man safe on his wondrous path, not more by 
endowing him with vision, than, at the right place, with blindness! 
Under all her works, chiefly under her noblest work, Life, lies a basis 
of Darkness, which she benignantly conceals; in Life too, the roots 
and inward circulations which stretch down fearfully to the regions 
of Death and Night, shall not hint of their existence, and only the 



322 THOMAS CARLYLE 

fair stem with its leaves and flowers, shone on by the fair sun, shall 
disclose itself, and joyfully grow. 

However, without venturing into the abstruse, or too eagerly 
asking Why and How, in things where our answer must needs 
prove, in great part, an echo of the question, let us be content to 
remark farther, in the merely historical way, how that Aphorism of 
the bodily Physician holds good in quite other departments. Of 
the Soul, with her activities, we shall find it no less true than of 
the Body: nay, cry the Spiritualists, is not that very division of the 
unity, Man, into a dualism of Soul and Body, itself the symptom of 
disease; as, perhaps, your frightful theory of Materialism, of his 
being but a Body, and therefore, at least, once more a unity, may be 
the paroxysm which was critical, and the beginning of cure! But 
omitting this, we observe, with confidence enough, that the truly 
strong mind, view it as Intellect, as Morality, or under any other 
aspect, is nowise the mind acquainted with its strength; that here 
as before the sign of health is Unconsciousness. In our inward, as 
in our outward world, what is mechanical lies open to us: not what 
is dynamical and has vitality. Of our Thinking, we might say, it 
is but the mere upper surface that we shape into articulate Thoughts; 
underneath the region of argument and conscious discourse, lies 
the region of meditation; here, in its quiet mysterious depths, 
dwells what vital force is in us; here, if aught is to be created, and 
not merely manufactured and communicated, must the work go 
on. Manufacture is intelligible, but trivial: Creation is great, and 
cannot be understood. Thus if the Debater and Demonstrator, 
whom we may rank as the lowest of true thinkers, knows what he 
has done, and how he did it, the Artist, whom we rank as the highest, 
knows not; must speak of Inspiration, and in one or the other 
dialect, call his work the gift of a divinity. 

But on the whole, 'genius is ever a secret to itself; of this old 
truth we have, on all sides, daily evidence. The Shakspeare takes 
no airs for writing Hamlet and the Tempest, understands not that 
it is anything surprising: Milton, again, is more conscious of his 
faculty, which accordingly is an inferior one. On the other hand, 
what cackling and strutting must we not often hear and see, when, 
in some shape of academical prolusion, maiden speech, review article, 



CHARACTERISTICS 323 

this or the other well-fledged goose has produced its goose-egg, of 
quite measurable value, were it the pink of its whole kind; and 
wonders why all mortals do not wonder! 

Foolish enough, too, was the College Tutor's surprise at Walter 
Shandy: how, though unread in Aristotle, he could nevertheless 
argue; and not knowing the name of any dialectic tool, handled 
them all to perfection. Is it the skilfulest anatomist that cuts the 
best figure at Sadler's Wells? or does the boxer hit better for 
knowing that he has a flexor longus and a flexor brevis? But 
indeed, as in the higher case of the Poet, so here in that of the 
Speaker and Inquirer, the true force is an unconscious one. The 
healthy Understanding, we should say, is not the Logical, argumen- 
tative, but the Intuitive; for the end of Understanding is not to 
prove and find reasons, but to know and believe. Of logic, and its 
limits, and uses and abuses, there were much to be said and 
examined; one fact, however, which chiefly concerns us here, has 
long been familiar: that the man of logic and the man of insight; 
the Reasoner and the Discoverer, or even Knower, are quite sepa- 
rable, indeed, for most part, quite separate characters. In practical 
matters, for example, has it not become almost proverbial that the 
man of logic cannot prosper? This is he whom business-people call 
Systematic and Theoriser and Word-monger; his vital intellectual 
force lies dormant or extinct, his whole force is mechanical, con- 
scious: of such a one it is foreseen that, when once confronted with 
the infinite complexities of the real world, his little compact theorem 
of the world will be found wanting; that unless he can throw it 
overboard and become a new creature, he will necessarily founder. 
Nay, in mere Speculation itself, the most ineffectual of all characters, 
generally speaking, is your dialectic man-at-arms; were he armed 
cap-a-pie in syllogistic mail of proof, and perfect master of logic- 
fence, how little does it avail him! Consider the old Schoolmen, and 
their pilgrimage towards Truth: the faithfulest endeavour, incessant 
unwearied motion, often great natural vigour; only no progress: 
nothing but antic feats of one limb poised against the other; there 
they balanced, somersetted, and made postures; at best gyrated 
swiftly with some pleasure, like Spinning Dervishes, and ended 
where they began. So is it, so will it always be, with all System- 



THOMAS CARLYLE 

makers and builders of logical card-castles; of which class a certain 
remnant must, in every age, as they do in our own, survive and 
build. Logic is good, but it is not the best. The Irrefragable Doctor, 
with his chains of induction, his corollaries, dilemmas and other 
cunning logical diagrams and apparatus, will cast you a beautiful 
horoscope, and speak reasonable things; nevertheless your stolen 
jewel, which you wanted him to find you, is not forthcoming. 
Often by some winged word, winged as the thunderbolt is, of a 
Luther, a Napoleon, a Goethe, shall we see the difficulty split asunder, 
and its secret laid bare; while the Irrefragable, with all his logical 
tools, hews at it, and hovers round it, and finds it on all hands too 
hard for him. 

Again, in the difference between Oratory and Rhetoric, as indeed 
everywhere in that superiority of what is called the Natural over 
the Artificial, we find a similar illustration. The Orator persuades 
and carries all with him, he knows not how; the Rhetorician can 
prove that he ought to have persuaded and carried all with him: the 
one is in a state of healthy unconsciousness, as if he 'had no system'; 
the other, in virtue of regimen and dietetic punctuality, feels at best 
that 'his system is in high order.' So stands it, in short, with all 
the forms of Intellect, whether as directed to the finding of truth, 
or to the fit imparting thereof; to Poetry, to Eloquence, to depth of 
Insight, which is the basis of both these; always the characteristic 
of right performance is a certain spontaneity, an unconsciousness; 
'the healthy know not of their health, but only the sick.' So that 
the old precept of the critic, as crabbed as it looked to his ambitious 
disciple, might contain in it a most fundamental truth, applicable 
to us all, and in much else than Literature: "Whenever you have 
written any sentence that looks particularly excellent, be sure to 
blot it out." In like manner, under milder phraseology, and with 
a meaning purposely much wider, a living Thinker has taught us: 
'Of the Wrong we are always conscious, of the Right never.' 

But if such is the law with regard to Speculation and the Intel- 
lectual power of man, much more is it with regard to Conduct, and 
the power, manifested chiefly therein, which we name Moral. 'Let 
not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth': whisper not 
to thy own heart, How worthy is this action! for then it is already 



CHARACTERISTICS 325 

becoming worthless. The good man is he who worlds continually 
in welldoing; to whom welldoing is as his natural existence, awaken- 
ing no astonishment, requiring no commentary; but there, like a 
thing of course, and as if it could not but be so. Self-contemplation, 
on the other hand, is infallibly the symptom of disease, be it or be it 
not the sign of cure. An unhealthy Virtue is one that consumes itself 
to leanness in repenting and anxiety; or, still worse, that inflates 
itself into dropsical boastfulness and vain-glory: either way, there 
is a self-seeking; an unprofitable looking behind us to measure 
the way we have made: whereas the sole concern is to walk con- 
tinually forward, and make more way. If in any sphere of man's 
life, then in the Moral sphere, as the inmost and most vital of 
all, it is good that there be wholeness; that there be unconscious- 
ness, which is tfye evidence of this. Let the free, reasonable Will, 
which dwells in us, as in our Holy of Holies, be indeed free, 
and obeyed like a Divinity, as is its right and its effort: the per- 
fect obedience will be the silent one. Such perhaps were the sense 
of that maxim, enunciating, as is usual, but the half of a truth: To 
say that we have a clear conscience, is to utter a solecism; had we 
never sinned, we should have had no conscience. Were defeat un- 
known, neither would victory be celebrated by songs of triumph. 

This, true enough, is an ideal, impossible state of being; yet ever 
the goal towards which our actual state of being strives; which it is 
the more perfect the nearer it can approach. Nor, in our actual 
world, where Labour must often prove ineffectual, and thus in all 
senses Light alternate with Darkness, and the nature of an ideal 
Morality be much modified, is the case, thus far, materially different. 
It is a fact which escapes no one, that, generally speaking, whoso is 
acquainted with his worth has but a little stock to cultivate ac- 
quaintance with. Above all, the public acknowledgment of such 
acquaintance, indicating that it has reached quite an intimate foot- 
ing, bodes ill. Already, to the popular judgment, he who talks much 
about Virtue in the abstract, begins to be suspect; it is shrewdly 
guessed that where there is great preaching, there will be little alms- 
giving. Or again, on a wider scale, we can remark that ages of 
Heroism are not ages of Moral Philosophy; Virtue, when it can be 
philosophised of, has become aware of itself, is sickly and beginning 



326 THOMAS CARLYLE 

to decline. A spontaneous habitual all-pervading spirit of Chivalrous 
Valour shrinks together, and perks itself up into shrivelled Points of 
Honour; humane Courtesy and Nobleness of mind dwindle into 
punctilious Politeness, 'avoiding meats'; 'paying tithe of mint and 
anise, neglecting the weightier matters of the law.' Goodness, which 
was a rule to itself, must now appeal to Precept, and seek strength 
from Sanctions; the Freewill no longer reigns unquestioned and 
by divine right, but like a mere earthly sovereign, by expediency, 
by Rewards and Punishments: or rather, let us say, the Freewill, 
so far as may be, has abdicated and withdrawn into the dark, and 
a spectral nightmare of a Necessity usurps its throne; for now that 
mysterious Self-impulse of the whole man, heaven-inspired, and in 
all senses partaking of the Infinite, being captiously questioned in a 
finite dialect, and answering, as it needs must, by silence^ is 
conceived as non-extant, and only the outward Mechanism of it 
remains acknowledged: of Volition, except as the synonym of De- 
sire, we hear nothing; of 'Motives,' without any Mover, more than 
enough. 

So too, when the generous Afifections have become well-nigh 
paralytic, we have the reign of Sentimentality. The greatness, the 
profitableness, at any rate the extremely ornamental nature of high 
feeling, and the luxury of doing good; charity, love, self-forgetful- 
ness, devotedness and all manner of godlike magnanimity, are 
everywhere insisted on, and pressingly inculcated in speech and 
writing, in prose and verse; Socinian Preachers proclaim 'Benevo- 
lence' to all the four winds, and have TRUTH engraved on their 
watch-seals: unhappily with little or no effect. Were the limbs in 
right walking order, why so much demonstrating of motion? The 
barrenest of all mortals is the Sentimentalist. Granting even that he 
were sincere, and did not wilfully deceive us, or without first de- 
ceiving himself, what good is in him? Does he not lie there as a 
perpetual lesson of despair, and type of bedrid valetudinarian im- 
potence? His is emphatically a Virtue that has become, through 
every fibre, conscious of itself; it is all sick, and feels as if it were 
made of glass, and durst not touch or be touched; in the shape of 
work, it can do nothing; at the utmost, by incessant nursing and 
caudling, keep itself alive. As the last stage of all, when Virtue, 
properly so called, has ceased to be practised, and become extinct, 



CHARACTERISTICS 327 

and a mere remembrance, we have the era of Sophists, descanting 
of its existence, proving it, denying it, mechanically 'accounting' for 
it; as dissectors and demonstrators cannot operate till once the 
body be dead. 

Thus is true Moral genius, like true Intellectual, which indeed is 
but a lower phasis thereof, 'ever a secret to itself.' The healthy moral 
nature loves Goodness, and without wonder wholly lives in it: the 
unhealthy makes love to it, and would fain get to live in it; or, 
finding such courtship fruitless, turns round, and not without con- 
tempt abandons it. These curious relations of the Voluntary and 
Conscious to the Involuntary and Unconscious, and the small pro- 
portion which, in all departments of our life, the former bears to 
the latter, might lead us into deep questions of Psychology and 
Physiology: such, however, belong not to our present object. Enough, 
if the fact itself become apparent, that Nature so meant it with us; 
that in this wise we are made. We may now say, that view man's 
individual Existence under what aspect we will, under the highest 
spiritual, as under the merely animal aspect, everywhere the grand 
vital energy, while in its sound state, is an unseen unconscious one; 
or, in the words of our old Aphorism, 'the healthy know not of their 
health, but only the sick.' 

To understand man, however, we must look beyond the individual 
man and his actions or interests, and view him in combination with 
his fellows. It is in Society that man first feels what he is; first 
becomes what he can be. In Society an altogether new set of spir- 
itual activities are evolved in him, and the old immeasurably quick- 
ened and strengthened. Society is the genial element wherein his 
nature first lives and grows; the solitary man were but a small por- 
tion of himself, and must continue forever folded in, stunted and 
only half alive. 'Already,' says a deep Thinker, with more meaning 
than will disclose itself at once, 'my opinion, my conviction, gains 
infinitely in strength and sureness, the moment a second mind has 
adopted it.' Such, even in its simplest form, is association; so won- 
drous the communion of soul with soul as directed to the mere act 
of Knowing! In other higher acts, the wonder is still more manifest; 
as in that portion of our being which we name the Moral : for prop- 
erly, indeed, all communion is of a moral sort, whereof such intellec- 



328 THOMAS CARLYLE 

tual communion (in the act of knowing) is itself an example. But 
with regard to Morals strictly so called, it is in Society, we might 
almost say, that Morality begins; here at least it takes an altogether 
new form, and on every side, as in living growth, expands itself. 
The Duties of Man to himself, to what is Highest in himself, make 
but the First Table of the Law: to the First Table is now super- 
added a Second, with the Duties of Man to his Neighbour; whereby 
also the significance of the First now assumes its true importance. 
Man has joined himself with man; soul acts and reacts on soul; a 
mystic miraculous unfathomable Union establishes itself; Life, in 
all its elements, has become intensated, consecrated. The lightning- 
spark of Thought, generated, or say rather heaven-kindled, in the 
solitary mind, awakens its express likeness in another mind, in a 
thousand other minds, and all blaze-up together in combined fire; 
reverberated from mind to mind, fed also with fresh fuel in each, 
it acquires incalculable new light as Thought, incalculable new heat 
as converted into Action. By and by, a common store of Thought 
can accumulate, and be transmitted as an everlasting possession: 
Literature, whether as preserved in the memory of Bards, in Runes 
and Hieroglyphs engraved on stone, or in Books of written or 
printed paper, comes into existence, and begins to play its wondrous 
part. Polities are formed; the weak submitting to the strong; with 
a willing loyalty giving obedience that he may receive guidance: 
or say rather, in honour of our nature, the ignorant submitting to 
the wise; for so it is in all even the rudest communities, man never 
yields himself wholly to brute Force, but always to moral Greatness; 
thus the universal title of respect, from the Original SheiJ^, from the 
Sachem of the Red Indians, down to our English Sir, implies only 
that he whom we mean to honour is our senior. Last, as the crown 
and all-supporting keystone of the fabric, Religion arises. The de- 
vout meditation of the isolated man, which flitted through his soul, 
like a transient tone of Love and Awe from unknown lands, ac- 
quires certainty, continuance, when it is shared-in by his brother 
men. 'Where two or three are gathered together' in the name of 
the Highest, then first does the Highest, as it is written, 'appear 
among them to bless them'; then first does an Altar and act of 
united Worship open a way from Earth to Heaven; whereon, were 



CHARACTERISTICS 329 

it but a simple Jacob's-ladder, the heavenly Messengers will travel, 
with glad tidings and unspeakable gifts for men. Such is SOCIETY, 
the vital articulation of many individuals into a new collective indi- 
vidual: greatly the most important of man's attainments on this 
earth; that in which, and by virtue of which, all his other attain- 
ments and attempts find their arena, and have their value. Consid- 
ered well, Society is the standing wonder of our existence; a true 
region of the Supernatural; as it were, a second all-embracing Life, 
wherein our first individual Life becomes doubly and trebly alive, 
and whatever of Infinitude was in us bodies itself forth, and becomes 
visible and active. 

To figure Society as endowed with life is scarcely a metaphor; but 
rather the statement of a fact by such imperfect methods as language 
affords. Look at it closely, that mystic Union, Nature's highest work 
with man, wherein man's volition plays an indispensable yet so sub- 
ordinate a part, and the small Mechanical grows so mysteriously and 
indissolubly out of the infinite Dynamical, like Body out of Spirit, 
is truly enough vital, what we can call vital, and bears the distin- 
guishing character of life. In the same style also, we can say that 
Society has its periods of sickness and vigour, of youth, manhood, 
decrepitude, dissolution and new birth; in one or other of which 
stages we may, in all times, and all places where men inhabit, dis- 
cern it; and do ourselves, in this time and place, whether as co- 
operating or as contending, as healthy members or as diseased ones, 
to our joy and sorrow, form part of it. The question, What is the 
actual condition of Society? has in these days unhappily become 
important enough. No one of us is unconcerned in that question; 
but for the majority of thinking men a true answer to it, such is 
the state of matters, appears almost as the one thing needful. Mean- 
while, as the true answer, that is to say, the complete and funda- 
mental answer and settlement, often as it has been demanded, is 
nowhere forthcoming, and indeed by its nature is impossible, any 
honest approximation towards such is not without value. The 
feeblest light, or even so much as a more precise recognition of the 
darkness, which is the first step to attainment of light, will be wel- 
come. 

This once understood, let if not seem idle if we remark that here 



33 THOMAS CARLYLE 

too our old Aphorism holds; that again in the Body Politic, as in 
the animal body, the sign of right performances is Unconsciousness. 
Such indeed is virtually the meaning of that phrase, 'artificial state 
of society,' as contrasted with the natural state, and indicating some- 
thing so inferior to it. For, in all vital things, men distinguish an 
Artificial and a Natural; founding on some dim perception or senti- 
ment of the very truth we here insist on: the artificial is the con- 
scious, mechanical; the natural is the unconscious, dynamical. Thus, 
as we have an artificial Poetry, and prize only the natural; so likewise 
we have an artificial Morality, an artificial Wisdom, an artificial 
Society. The artificial Society is precisely one that knows its own 
structure, its own internal functions; not in watching, not in know- 
ing which, but in working outwardly to the fulfilment of its aim, 
does the wellbeing of a Society consist. Every Society, every Polity, 
has a spiritual principle; is the embodiment, tentative and more or 
less complete, of an Idea: all its tendencies of endeavour, specialties 
of custom, its laws, politics and whole procedure (as the glance of 
some Montesquieu, across innumerable superficial entanglements, 
can partly decipher), are prescribed by an Idea, and flow naturally 
from it, as movements from the living source of motion. This Idea, 
be it of devotion to a man or class of men, to a creed, to an institu- 
tion, or even, as in more ancient times, to a piece of land, is ever a 
true Loyalty; has in it something of a religious, paramount, quite 
infinite character; it is properly the Soul of the State, its Life; mys- 
terious as other forms of Life, and like these working secretly, and 
in a depth beyond that of consciousness. 

Accordingly, it is not in the vigorous ages of a Roman Republic 
that Treatises of the Commonwealth are written: while the Decii 
are rushing with devoted bodies on the enemies of Rome, what 
need of preaching Patriotism? The virtue of Patriotism has already 
sunk from its pristine all-transcendent condition, before it has re- 
ceived a name. So long as the Commonwealth continues rightly ath- 
letic, it cares not to dabble in anatomy. Why teach obedience to 
the Sovereign; why so much as admire it, or separately recognise it, 
while a divine idea of Obedience perennially inspires all men ? Loy- 
alty, like Patriotism, of which it is a form, was not praised till it had 
begun to decline; the Preux Chevaliers first became rightly admira- 



CHARACTERISTICS 33 1 

ble, when 'dying for their king' had ceased to be a habit with cheva- 
liers. For if the mystic significance of the State, let this be what it 
may, dwells vitally in every heart, encircles every life as with a sec- 
ond higher life, how should it stand self-questioning? It must rush 
outward, and express itself by works. Besides, if perfect, it is there 
as by necessity, and does not excite inquiry: it is also by na- 
ture infinite, has no limits; therefore can be circumscribed by no 
conditions and definitions; cannot be reasoned of; except musi- 
cally, or in the language of Poetry, cannot yet so much as be 
spoken of. 

In those days, Society was what we name healthy, sound at heart. 
Not indeed without suffering enough; not without perplexities, diffi- 
culty on every side: for such is the appointment of man; his highest 
and sole blessedness is, that he toil, and know what to toil at: not 
in ease, but in united victorious labour, which is at once evil and 
the victory over evil, does his Freedom lie. Nay, often, looking no 
deeper than such superficial perplexities of the early Time, historians 
have taught us that it was all one mass of contradiction and disease; 
and in the antique Republic or feudal Monarchy have seen only the 
confused chaotic quarry, not the robust labourer, or the stately edi- 
fice he was building of it. 

If Society, in such ages, had its difficulty, it had also its strength; 
if sorrowful masses of rubbish so encumbered it, the tough sinews 
to hurl them aside, with indomitable heart, were not wanting. So- 
ciety went along without complaint; did not stop to scrutinize itself, 
to say, How well I perform! or, Alas, how ill! Men did not yet feel 
themselves to be 'the envy of surrounding nations'; and were envi- 
able on that very account. Society was what we can call whole, in 
both senses of the word. The individual man was in himself a 
whole, or complete union; and could combine with his fellows as 
the living member of a greater whole. For all men, through their 
life, were animated by one great Idea; thus all efforts pointed one 
way, everywhere there was wholeness. Opinion and Action had not 
yet become disunited; but the former could still produce the latter, 
or attempt to produce it; as the stamp does its impression while the 
wax is not hardened. Thought and the voice of thought were also a 
unison; thus, instead of Speculation, we had Poetry; Literature, in 



33 2 THOMAS CARLYLE 

its rude utterance, was as yet a heroic Song, perhaps too a devotional 
Anthem. 

Religion was everywhere; Philosophy lay hid under it, peaceably 
included in it. Herein, as in the life-centre of all, lay the true health 
and oneness. Only at a later era must Religion split itself into 
Philosophies; and thereby, the vital union of Thought being lost, 
disunion and mutual collision in all provinces of Speech and Action 
more and more prevail. For if the Poet, or Priest, or by whatever 
title the inspired thinker may be named, is the sign of vigour and 
well-being; so likewise is the Logician, or uninspired thinker, the 
sign of disease, probably of decrepitude and decay. Thus, not to 
mention other instances, one of them much nearer hand, so soon 
as Prophecy among the Hebrews had ceased, then did the reign 
of Argumentation begin; and the ancient Theocracy, in its Sad- 
duceeisms and Phariseeisms, and vain jangling of sects and doctors, 
give token that the soul of it had fled, and that the body itself, by 
natural dissolution, 'with the old forces still at work, but working 
in reverse order,' was on the road to final disappearance. 

We might pursue this question into innumerable other ramifi- 
cations; and everywhere, under new shapes, find the same truth, 
which we here so imperfectly enunciate, disclosed; that throughout 
the whole world of man, in all manifestations and performances 
of his nature, outward and inward, personal and social, the Perfect, 
the Great is a mystery to itself, knows not itself; whatsoever does 
know itself is already little, and more or less imperfect. Or other- 
wise, we may say, Unconsciousness belongs to pure unmixed life; 
Consciousness to a diseased mixture and conflict of life and death: 
Unconsciousness is the sign of creation; Consciousness, at best, that 
of manufacture. So deep, in this existence of ours, is the significance 
of Mystery. Well might the Ancients make Silence a god; for it is 
the element of all godhood, infinitude, or transcendental greatness; 
at once the source and the ocean wherein all such begins and ends. 
In the same sense, too, have Poets sung 'Hymns to the Night'; as 
if Night were nobler than Day; as if Day were but a small motley- 
coloured veil spread transiently over the infinite bosom of Night, 
and did but deform and hide from us its purely transparent eternal 



CHARACTERISTICS 333 

deeps. So likewise have they spoken and sung as if Silence were 
the grand epitome and complete sum-total of all Harmony; and 
Death, what mortals call Death, properly the beginning of Life. 
Under such figures, since except in figures there is no speaking of 
the Invisible, have men endeavoured to express a great Truth; a 
Truth, in our Times, as nearly as is perhaps possible, forgotten by 
the most; which nevertheless continues forever true, forever all-im- 
portant, and will one day, under new figures, be again brought 
home to the bosoms of all. 

But indeed, in a far lower sense, the rudest mind has still some 
intimation of the greatness there is in Mystery. If Silence was made 
a god of by the Ancients, he still continues a government-clerk among 
us Moderns. To all quacks, moreover, of what sort soever, the 
effect of Mystery is well known: here and there some Cagliostro, 
even in latter days, turns it to notable account: the blockhead also, 
who is ambitious, and has no talent, finds sometimes in 'the talent of 
silence,' a kind of succedaneum. Or again, looking on the opposite 
side of the matter, do we not see, in the common understanding of 
mankind, a certain distrust, a certain contempt of what is altogether 
self-conscious and mechanical? As nothing that is wholly seen 
through has other than a trivial character; so anything professing to 
be great, and yet wholly to see through itself, is already known to 
be false, and a failure. The evil repute your 'theoretical men' stand 
in, the acknowledged inefficiency of 'paper constitutions,' and all 
that class of objects, are instances of this. Experience often repeated, 
and perhaps a certain instinct of something far deeper that lies under 
such experiences, has taught men so much. They know beforehand, 
that the loud is generally the insignificant, the empty. Whatsoever 
can proclaim itself from the house-tops may be fit for the hawker, 
and for those multitudes that must needs buy of him; but for any 
deeper use, might as well continue unproclaimed. Observe too, how 
the converse of the proposition holds; how the insignificant, the 
empty, is usually the loud; and, after the manner of a drum, is loud 
even because of its emptiness. The uses of some Patent Dinner 
Calefactor can be bruited abroad over the whole world in the course 
of the first winter; those of the Printing Press are not so well seen 
into for the first three centuries: the passing of the Select-Vestries 



334 THOMAS CARLYLE 

Bill raises more noise and hopeful expectancy among mankind than 
did the promulgation of the Christian Religion. Again, and again, 
we say, the great, the creative and enduring is ever a secret to itself; 
only the small, the barren and transient is otherwise. 

If we now, with a practical medical view, examine, by this same 
test of Unconsciousness, the Condition of our own Era, and of man's 
Life therein, the diagnosis we arrive at is nowise of a flattering sort. 
The state of Society in our days is, of all possible states, the least 
an unconscious one: this is specially the Era when all manner of 
Inquiries into what was once the unfelt, involuntary sphere of man's 
existence, find their place, and, as it were, occupy the whole domain 
of thought. What, for example, is all this that we hear, for the last 
generation or two, about the Improvement of the Age, the Spirit 
of the Age, Destruction of Prejudice, Progress of the Species, and 
the March of Intellect, but an unhealthy state of self-sentience, self- 
survey; the precursor and prognostic of still worse health? That In- 
tellect do march, if possible at double-quick time, is very desirable; 
nevertheless, why should she turn round at every stride, and cry: 
See you what a stride I have taken! Such a marching of Intellect 
is distinctly of the spavined kind; what the Jockeys call 'all action 
and no go.' Or at best, if we examine well, it is the marching of 
that gouty Patient, whom his Doctors had clapt on a metal floor 
artificially heated to the searing point, so that he was obliged to 
march, and did march with a vengeance nowhither. Intellect did 
not awaken for the first time yesterday; but has been under way 
from Noah's Flood downwards: greatly her best progress, more- 
over, was in the old times, when she said nothing about it. In those 
same 'dark ages,' Intellect (metaphorically as well as literally) could 
invent glass, which now she has enough ado to grind into spectacles. 
Intellect built not only Churches, but a Church, the Church, based 
on this firm Earth, yet reaching up, and leading up, as high as 
Heaven; and now it is all she can do to keep its doors bolted, that 
there be no tearing of the Surplices, no robbery of the Alms-box. 
She built a Senate-house likewise, glorious in its kind; and now it 
costs her a well-nigh mortal effort to sweep it clear of vermin, and 
get the roof made rain-tight. 



CHARACTERISTICS 335 

But the truth is, with Intellect, as with most other things, we are 
now passing from that first or boastful stage of Self-sentience into 
the second or painful one : out of these often-asseverated declarations 
that 'our system is in high order,' we come now, by natural sequence, 
to the melancholy conviction that it is altogether the reverse. Thus, 
for instance, in the matter of Government, the period of the 'Inval- 
uable Constitution' has to be followed by a Reform Bill; to lauda- 
tory De Lolmes succeed objurgatory Benthams. At any rate, what 
Treatises on the Social Contract, on the Elective Franchise, the 
Rights of Man, the Rights of Property, Codifications, Institutions, 
Constitutions, have we not, for long years, groaned under! Or again, 
with a wider survey, consider those Essays on Man, Thoughts on 
Man, Inquiries concerning Man; not to mention Evidences of the 
Christian Faith, Theories of Poetry, Considerations on the Origin 
of Evil, which during the last century have accumulated on us to a 
frightful extent. Never since the beginning of Time was there, that 
we hear or read of, so intensely self-conscious a Society. Our whole 
relations to the Universe and to our fellow-man have become an 
Inquiry, a Doubt; nothing will go on of its own accord, and do its 
function quietly; but all things must be probed into, the whole 
working of man's world be anatomically studied. Alas, anatom- 
ically studied, that it may be medically aided! Till at length indeed, 
we have come to such a pass, that except in this same medicine, with 
its artifices and appliances, few can so much as imagine any strength 
or hope to remain for us. The whole Life of Society must now be 
carried on by drugs : doctor after doctor appears with his nostrum, of 
Cooperative Societies, Universal Suffrage, Cottage-and-Cow systems, 
Repression of Population, Vote by ballot. To such height has the 
dyspepsia of Society reached: as indeed the constant grinding inter- 
nal pain, or from time to time the mad spasmodic throes, of all 
Society do otherwise too mournfully indicate. 

Far be it from us to attribute, as some unwise persons do, the dis- 
ease itself to this unhappy sensation that there is a disease! The 
Encyclopedists did not produce the troubles of France; but the trou- 
bles of France produced the Encyclopedists, and much else. The 
Self -consciousness is the symptom merely; nay, it is also the attempt 
towards cure. We record the fact, without special censure; not won- 



336 THOMAS CARLYLE 

dering that Society should feel itself, and in all ways complain of 
aches and twinges, for it has suffered enough. Napoleon was but a 
Job's-comforter, when he told his wounded staff-officer, twice un- 
horsed by cannon-balls, and with half his limbs blown to pieces: 
"Vous vous ecoutez trop!" 

On the outward, as it were Physical diseases of Society, it were 
beside our purpose to insist here. These are diseases which he who 
runs may read; and sorrow over, with or without hope. Wealth has 
accumulated itself into masses; and Poverty, also in accumulation 
enough, lies impassably separated from it; opposed, uncommunicat- 
ing, like forces in positive and negative poles. The gods of this 
lower world sit aloft on glittering thrones, less happy than Epi- 
curus's gods, but as indolent, as impotent; while the boundless living 
chaos of Ignorance and Hunger welters terrific, in its dark fury, 
under their feet. How much among us might be likened to a whited 
sepulchre; outwardly all pomp and strength; but inwardly full of 
horror and despair and dead-men's bones! Iron highways, with their 
wains fire- winged, are uniting all ends of the firm Land; quays and 
moles, with their innumerable stately fleets, tame the Ocean into 
our pliant bearer of burdens; Labour's thousand arms of sinew and 
of metal, all-conquering everywhere, from the tops of the mountain 
down to the depths of the mine and the caverns of the sea, ply 
unweariedly for the service of man : yet man remains unserved. He 
has subdued this Planet, his habitation and inheritance; yet reaps 
no profit from the victory. 

Sad to look upon: in the highest stage of civilisation, nine-tenths 
of mankind have to struggle in the lowest battle of savage or even 
animal man, the battle against Famine. Countries are rich, pros- 
perous in all manner of increase, beyond example : but the Men of 
those countries are poor, needier than ever of all sustenance out- 
ward and inward ; of Belief, of Knowledge, of Money, of Food. The 
rule, Sic vos non vobis, never altogether to be got rid of in men's 
Industry, now presses with such incubus weight, that Industry must 
shake it off, or utterly be strangled under it; and, alas, can as yet 
but gasp and rave, and aimlessly struggle, like one in the final 
deliration. Thus Change, or the inevitable approach of Change, is 
manifest everywhere. In one Country we have seen lava-torrents 



CHARACTERISTICS 337 

of fever-frenzy envelop all things; Government succeed Govern- 
ment, like the phantasms of a dying brain. In another Country, we 
can even now see, in maddest alternation, the Peasant governed 
by such guidance as this: To labour earnestly one month in raising 
wheat, and the next month labour earnestly in burning it. So that 
Society, were it not by nature immortal, and its death ever a new- 
birth, might appear, as it does in the eyes of some, to be sick to 
dissolution, and even now writhing in its last agony. Sick enough 
we must admit it to be, with disease enough, a whole nosology of 
diseases; wherein he perhaps is happiest that is not called to prescribe 
as physician; wherein, however, one small piece of policy, that of 
summoning the Wisest in the Commonwealth, by the sole method 
yet known or thought of, to come together and with their whole 
soul consult for it, might, but for late tedious experiences, have 
seemed unquestionable enough. 

But leaving this, let us rather look within, into the Spiritual condi- 
tion of Society, and see what aspects and prospects offer themselves 
there. For after all, it is there properly that the secret and origin of 
the whole is to be sought: the Physical derangements of Society are 
but the image and impress of its Spiritual; while the heart continues 
sound, all other sickness is superficial, and temporary. False Action 
is the fruit of false Speculation; let the spirit of Society be free and 
strong, that is to say, let true Principles inspire the members of So- 
ciety, then neither can disorders accumulate in its Practice; each 
disorder will be promptly, faithfully inquired into, and remedied as 
it arises. But alas, with us the Spiritual condition of Society is no 
less sickly than the Physical. Examine man's internal world, in any 
of its social relations and performances, here too all seems diseased 
self-consciousness, collision and mutually-destructive struggle. Noth- 
ing acts from within outwards in undivided healthy force; everything 
lies impotent, lamed, its force turned inwards, and painfully 'listens 
to itself.' 

To begin with our highest Spiritual function, with Religion, we 
might ask, Whither has Religion now fled? Of Churches and their 
establishments we here say nothing; nor of the unhappy domains 
of Unbelief, and how innumerable men, blinded in their minds, 
have grown to 'live without God in the world'; but, taking the fair- 



338 THOMAS CARLYLE 

est side of the matter, we ask, What is the nature o that same Re- 
ligion, which still lingers in the hearts of the few who are called, 
and call themselves, specially the Religious ? Is it a healthy religion, 
vital, unconscious of itself; that shines forth spontaneously in doing 
of the Work, or even in preaching of the Word ? Unhappily, no. In- 
stead of heroic martyr Conduct, and inspired and soul-inspiring Elo- 
quence, whereby Religion itself were brought home to our living 
bosoms, to live and reign there, we have 'Discourses on the Evi- 
dences,' endeavouring, with smallest result, to make it probable that 
such a thing as Religion exists. The most enthusiastic Evangelicals 
do not preach a Gospel, but keep describing how it should and might 
be preached: to awaken the sacred fire of faith, as by a sacred con- 
tagion, is not their endeavour; but, at most, to describe how Faith 
shows and acts, and scientifically distinguish true Faith from false. 
Religion, like all else, is conscious of itself, listens to itself; it be- 
comes less and less creative, vital; more and more mechanical. Con- 
sidered as a whole, the Christian Religion of late ages has been con- 
tinually dissipating itself into Metaphysics; and threatens now to 
disappear, as some rivers do, in deserts of barren sand. 

Of Literature, and its deep-seated, wide-spread maladies, why 
speak? Literature is but a branch of Religion, and always partici- 
pates in its character: however, in our time, it is the only branch 
that still shows any greenness; and, as some think, must one day 
become the main stem. Now, apart from the subterranean and 
tartarean regions of Literature; leaving out of view the frightful, 
scandalous statistics of Purring, the mystery of Slander, Falsehood, 
Hatred and other convulsion-work of rabid Imbecility, and all that 
has rendered Literature on that side a perfect 'Babylon the mother 
of Abominations,' in very deed making the world 'drunk' with the 
wine of her iniquity; forgetting all this, let us look only to the 
regions of the upper air; to such Literature as can be said to have 
some attempt towards truth in it, some tone of music, and if it be 
not poetical, to hold of the poetical. Among other characteristics, 
is not this manifest enough: that it knows itself? Spontaneous 
devotedness to the object, being wholly possessed by the object, what 
we can call Inspiration, has well-nigh ceased to appear in Literature. 
Which melodious Singer forgets that he is singing melodiously? 



CHARACTERISTICS 339 

We have not the love of greatness, but the love of the love of great- 
ness. Hence infinite Affectations, Distractions; in every case in- 
evitable Error. Consider, for one example, this peculiarity of Mod- 
ern Literature, the sin that has been named View-hunting. In our 
elder writers, there are no paintings of scenery for its own sake; no 
euphuistic gallantries with Nature, but a constant heartlove for her, 
a constant dwelling in communion with her. View-hunting, with 
so much else that is of kin to it, first came decisively into action 
through the Sorrows of Werter; which wonderful Performance, 
indeed, may in many senses be regarded as the progenitor of all 
that has since become popular in Literature; whereof, in so far as 
concerns spirit and tendency, it still offers the most instructive 
image; for nowhere, except in its own country, above all in the 
mind of its illustrious Author, has it yet fallen wholly obsolete. 
Scarcely ever, till that late epoch, did any worshipper of Nature 
become entirely aware that he was worshipping, much to his own 
credit; and think of saying to himself: Come, let us make a descrip- 
tion! Intolerable enough: when every puny whipster plucks out his 
pencil, and insists on painting you a scene; so that the instant you 
discern such a thing as 'wavy outline,' 'mirror of the lake,' 'stern 
headland,' or the like, in any Book, you tremulously hasten on; and 
scarcely the Author of Waverley himself can tempt you not to skip. 
Nay, is not the diseased self-conscious state of Literature disclosed 
in this one fact, which lies so near us here, the prevalence of Re- 
viewing! Sterne's wish for a reader 'that would give-up the reins of 
his imagination into his author's hands, and be pleased he knew not 
why, and cared not wherefore,' might lead him a long journey now. 
Indeed, for our best class of readers, the chief pleasure, a very stinted 
one, is this same knowing of the Why; which many a Kames and 
Bossu has been, ineffectually enough, endeavouring to teach us: till 
at last these also have laid down their trade; and now your Re- 
viewer is a mere taster; who tastes, and says, by the evidence of 
such palate, such tongue, as he has got, It is good, It is bad. Was it 
thus that the French carried out certain inferior creatures on their 
Algerine Expedition, to taste the wells for them, and try whether 
they were poisoned? Far be it from us to disparage our own craft, 
whereby we have our living! Only we must note these things: that 



34 THOMAS CARLYLE 

Reviewing spreads with strange vigour; that such a man as Byron 
reckons the Reviewer and the Poet equal; that at the last Leipzig 
Fair, there was advertised a Review of Reviews. By and by it will 
be found that all Literature has become one boundless self-devouring 
Review; and, as in London routs, we have to do nothing, but only to 
sec others do nothing. Thus does Literature also, like a sick thing, 
superabundantly 'listen to itself.' 

No less is this unhealthy symptom manifest, if we cast a glance 
on our Philosophy, on the character of our speculative Thinking. 
Nay, already, as above hinted, the mere existence and necessity of a 
Philosophy is an evil. Man is sent hither not to question, but to 
work: 'the end of man,' it was long ago written, 'is an Action, not 
a Thought.' In the perfect state, all Thought were but the picture 
and inspiring symbol of Action; Philosophy, except as Poetry and 
Religion, would have no being. And yet how, in this imperfect 
state, can it be avoided, can it be dispensed with ? Man stands as in 
the centre of Nature; his fraction of Time encircled by Eternity, 
his handbreadth of Space encircled by Infinitude: how shall he for- 
bear asking himself, What am I; and Whence; and Whither? How 
too, except in slight partial hints, in kind asseverations and assur- 
ances, such as a mother quiets her fretfully inquisitive child with, 
shall he get answer to such inquiries? 

The disease of Metaphysics, accordingly, is a perennial one. In 
all ages, those questions of Death and Immortality, Origin of Evil, 
Freedom and Necessity, must, under new forms, anew make their 
appearance; ever, from time to time, must the attempt to shape for 
ourselves some Theorem of the Universe be repeated. And ever 
unsuccessfully : for what Theorem of the Infinite can the Finite ren- 
der complete? We, the whole species of Mankind, and our whole 
existence and history, are but a floating speck in the illimitable ocean 
of the All; yet in that ocean; indissoluble portion thereof; partaking 
of its infinite tendencies : borne this way and that by its deep-swelling 
tides, and grand ocean currents; of which what faintest chance is 
there that we should ever exhaust the significance, ascertain the go- 
ings and comings? A region of Doubt, therefore, hovers forever in 
the background; in Action alone can we have certainty. Nay, prop- 
erly Doubt is the indispensable, inexhaustible material whereon Ac- 



CHARACTERISTICS 341 

tion works, which Action has to fashion into Certainty and Reality; 
only on a canvas o Darkness, such is man's way of being, could the 
many-coloured picture of our Life paint itself and shine. 

Thus if our eldest system of Metaphysics is as old as the Eoo\ of 
Genesis, our latest is that of Mr. Thomas Hope, published only 
within the current year. It is a chronic malady that of Metaphysics, 
as we said, and perpetually recurs on us. At the utmost, there is a 
better and a worse in it; a stage of convalescence, and a stage of 
relapse with new sickness: these forever succeed each other, as is the 
nature of all Life-movement here below. The first, or convalescent 
stage,we might also name that of Dogmatical or Constructive Meta- 
physics; when the mind constructively endeavours to scheme out 
and assert for itself an actual Theorem of the Universe, and there- 
with for a time rests satisfied. The second or sick stage might be 
called that of Sceptical or Inquisitory Metaphysics; when the mind 
having widened its sphere of vision, the existing Theorem of the 
Universe no longer answers the phenomena, no longer yields con- 
tentment; but must be torn in pieces, and certainty anew sought for 
in the endless realms of denial. All Theologies and sacred Cos- 
mogonies belong, in some measure, to the first class; in all Pyr- 
rhonism, from Pyrrho down to Hume and the innumerable disciples 
of Hume, we have instances enough of the second. In the former, 
so far as it affords satisfaction, a temporary anodyne to doubt, an 
arena for wholesome action, there may be much good; indeed in this 
case, it holds rather of Poetry than of Metaphysics, might be called 
Inspiration rather than Speculation. The latter is Metaphysics 
proper; a pure, unmixed, though from time to time a necessary evil. 

For truly, if we look into it, there is no more fruitless endeavour 
than this same, which the Metaphysician proper toils in: to educe 
Conviction out of Negation. How, by merely testing and rejecting 
what is not, shall we ever attain knowledge of what is? Meta- 
physical Speculation, as it begins in No or Nothingness, so it must 
needs end in Nothingness; circulates and must circulate in endless 
vortices; creating, swallowing itself. Our being is made up of 
Light and Darkness, the Light resting on the Darkness, and bal- 
ancing it; everywhere there is Dualism, Equipoise; a perpetual Con- 
tradiction dwells in us: 'where shall I place myself to escape from 



342 THOMAS CARLYLE 

my own shadow?' Consider it well, Metaphysics is the attempt of 
the mind to rise above the mind; to environ and shut in, or as we 
say, comprehend the mind. Hopeless struggle, for the wisest, as for 
the foolishest! What strength of sinew, or athletic skill, will enable 
the stoutest athlete to fold his own body in his arms, and, by lifting, 
lift up himself? The Irish Saint swam the Channel, 'carrying his 
head in his teeth'; but the feat has never been imitated. 

That this is the age of Metaphysics, in the proper, or sceptical 
Inquisitory sense; that there was a necessity for its being such an 
age, we regard as our indubitable misfortune. From many causes, 
the arena of free Activity has long been narrowing, that of sceptical 
Inquiry becoming more and more universal, more and more per- 
plexing. The Thought conducts not to the Deed; but in boundless 
chaos, self-devouring, engenders monstrosities, phantasms, fire- 
breathing chimeras. Profitable Speculation were this: What is to be 
done; and How is it to be done? But with us not so much as the 
What can be got sight of. For some generations, all Philosophy 
has been a painful, captious, hostile question towards everything in 
the Heaven above, and in the Earth beneath: Why art thou there? 
Till at length it has come to pass that the worth and authenticity 
of all things seem dubitable or deniable: our best effort must be 
unproductively spent not in working, but in ascertaining our mere 
Whereabout, and so much as whether we are to work at all. Doubt, 
which, as was said, ever hangs in the background of our world, has 
now become our middleground and foreground; whereon, for the 
time, no fair Life-picture can be painted, but only the dark air-can- 
vas itself flow round us, bewildering and benighting. 

Nevertheless, doubt as we will, man is actually Here; not to ask 
questions, but to do work: in this time, as in all times, it must be 
the heaviest evil for him, if his faculty of Action lie dormant, and 
only that of sceptical Inquiry exert itself. Accordingly whoever looks 
abroad upon the world, comparing the Past with the Present, may 
find that the practical condition of man in these days is one of the 
saddest; burdened with miseries which are in a considerable degree 
peculiar. In no time was man's life what he calls a happy one; in no 
time can it be so. A perpetual dream there has been of Paradises, 
and some luxurious Lubberland, where the brooks should run wine, 



CHARACTERISTICS 343 

and the trees bend with ready-baked viands; but it was a dream 
merely; an impossible dream. Suffering, contradiction, error, have 
their quite perennial, and even indispensable abode in this Earth. 
Is not labour the inheritance of man ? And what labour for the pres- 
ent is joyous, and not grievous? Labour, effort, is the very interrup- 
tion of that ease, which man foolishly enough fancies to be his hap- 
piness; and yet without labour there were no ease, no rest, so much 
as conceivable. Thus Evil, what we call Evil, must ever exist while 
man exists: Evil, in the widest sense we can give it, is precisely the 
dark, disordered material out of which man's Freewill has to create 
an edifice of order and Good. Ever must Pain urge us to Labour; 
and only in free Effort can any blessedness be imagined for us. 

But if man has, in all ages, had enough to encounter, there has, in 
most civilised ages, been an inward force vouchsafed him, whereby 
the pressure of things outward might be withstood. Obstruction 
abounded; but Faith also was not wanting. It is by Faith that man 
removes mountains: while he had Faith, his limbs might be wearied 
with toiling, his back galled with bearing; but the heart within him 
was peaceable and resolved. In the thickest gloom there burnt a 
lamp to guide him. If he struggled and suffered, he felt that it even 
should be so; knew for what he was suffering and struggling. Faith 
gave him an inward Willingness; a world of Strength wherewith 
to front a world of Difficulty. The true wretchedness lies here: that 
the Difficulty remain and the Strength be lost; that Pain cannot 
relieve itself in free Effort; that we have the Labour, and want the 
Willingness. Faith strengthens us, enlightens us, for all endeavours 
and endurances; with Faith we can do all, and dare all, and life 
itself has a thousand times been joyfully given away. But the sum 
of man's misery is even this, that he feel himself crushed under the 
Juggernaut wheels, and know that Juggernaut is no divinity, but a 
dead mechanical idol. 

Now this is specially the misery which has fallen on man in our 
Era. Belief, Faith has well-nigh vanished from the world. The youth 
on awakening in this wondrous Universe no longer finds a compe- 
tent theory of its wonders. Time was, when if he asked himself, 
What is man, What are the duties of man ? the answer stood ready 
written for him. But now the ancient 'ground-plan of the All' belies 



344 THOMAS CARLYLE 

itself when brought into contact with reality; Mother Church has, 
to the most, become a superannuated Step-mother, whose lessons go 
disregarded; or are spurned at, and scornfully gainsaid. For young 
Valour and thirst of Action no ideal Chivalry invites to heroism, 
prescribes what is heroic: the old ideal of Manhood has grown obso- 
lete, and the new is still invisible to us, and we grope after it in 
darkness, one clutching this phantom, another that; Werterism, 
Byronism, even Brummelism, each has its day. For Contemplation 
and love of Wisdom, no Cloister now opens its religious shades; the 
Thinker must, in all senses, wander homeless, too often aimless, 
looking up to a Heaven which is dead for him, round to an Earth 
which is deaf. Action, in those old days, was easy, was voluntary, 
for the divine worth of human things lay acknowledged; Specula- 
tion was wholesome, for it ranged itself as the handmaid of Action; 
what could not so range itself died out by its natural death, by 
neglect. Loyalty still hallowed obedience, and made rule noble; there 
was still something to be loyal to: the Godlike stood embodied 
under many a symbol in men's interests and business; the Finite 
shadowed forth the Infinite; Eternity looked through Time. The 
Life of man was encompassed and overcanopied by a glory of 
Heaven, even as his dwelling-place by the azure vault. 

How changed in these new days! Truly may it be said, the Divin- 
ity has withdrawn from the Earth; or veils himself in that wide- 
wasting Whirlwind of a departing Era, wherein the fewest can dis- 
cern his goings. Not Godhead, but an iron, ignoble circle of Necessity 
embraces all things; binds the youth of these times into a sluggish 
thrall, or else exasperates him into a rebel. Heroic Action is para- 
lysed; for what worth now remains unquestionable with him? At 
the fervid period when his whole nature cries aloud for Action, there 
is nothing sacred under whose banner he can act; the course and 
kind and conditions of free Action are all but undiscoverable. Doubt 
storms-in on him through every avenue; inquiries of the deepest, 
painfulest sort must be engaged with; and the invincible energy of 
young years waste itself in sceptical, suicidal cavillings; in passionate 
'questionings of Destiny,' whereto no answer will be returned. 

For men, in whom the old perennial principle of Hunger (be it 
Hunger of the poor Day-drudge who stills it with eighteenpence 



CHARACTERISTICS 345 

a-day, or of the ambitious Placehunter who can nowise still it with 
so little) suffices to fill-up existence, the case is bad; but not the 
worst. These men have an aim, such as it is; and can steer towards 
it, with chagrin enough truly; yet, as their hands are kept full, 
without desperation. Unhappier are they to whom a higher instinct 
has been given; who struggle to be persons, not machines; to whom 
the Universe is not a warehouse, or at best a fancy-bazaar, but a 
mystic temple and hall of doom. For such men there lie properly 
two courses open. The lower, yet still an estimable class, take up 
with worn-out Symbols of the Godlike; keep trimming and truck- 
ing between these and Hypocrisy, purblindly enough, miserably 
enough. A numerous intermediate class end in Denial; and form a 
theory that there is no theory; that nothing is certain in the world, 
except this fact of Pleasure being pleasant; so they try to realise 
what trifling modicum of Pleasure they can come at, and to live 
contented therewith, winking hard. Of those we speak not here; 
but only of the second nobler class, who also have dared to say No, 
and cannot yet say Yea; but feel that in the No they dwell as in a 
Golgotha, where life enters not, where peace is not appointed them. 
Hard, for most part, is the fate of such men; the harder the nobler 
they are. In dim forecastings, wrestles within them the 'Divine Idea 
of the World,' yet will nowhere visibly reveal itself. They have to 
realise a Worship for themselves, or live unworshipping. The God- 
like has vanished from the world; and they, by the strong cry of 
their soul's agony, like true wonder-workers, must again evoke its 
presence. This miracle is their appointed task; which they must 
accomplish, or die wretchedly: this miracle has been accomplished 
by such; but not in our land; our land yet knows not of it. Behold a 
Byron, in melodious tones, 'cursing his day': he mistakes earthborn 
passionate desire for heaven-inspired Freewill; without heavenly 
loadstar, rushes madly into the dance of meteoric lights that hover 
on the mad Mahlstrom; and goes down among its eddies. Hear a 
Shelley filling the earth with inarticulate wail; like the infinite, in- 
articulate grief and weeping of forsaken infants. A noble Friedrich 
Schlegel, stupefied in that fearful loneliness, as of a silenced battle- 
field, flies back to Catholicism; as a child might to its slain mother's 
bosom, and cling there. In lower regions, how many a poor Hazlitt 



346 THOMAS CARLYLE 

must wander on God's verdant earth, like the Unblest on burning 
deserts; passionately dig wells, and draw up only the dry quicksand; 
believe that he is seeking Truth, yet only wrestle among endless 
Sophisms, doing desperate battle as with spectre-hosts; and die and 
make no sign! 

To the better order of such minds any mad joy of Denial has long 
since ceased: the problem is not now to deny, but to ascertain and 
perform. Once in destroying the False, there was a certain inspira- 
tion; but now the genius of Destruction has done its work, there is 
now nothing more to destroy. The doom of the Old has long been 
pronounced, and irrevocable; the Old has passed away: but, alas, the 
New appears not in its stead; the Time is still in pangs of travail 
with the New. Man has walked by the light of conflagrations, and 
amid the sound of falling cities; and now there is darkness, and 
long watching till it be morning. The voice even of the faithful 
can but exclaim: 'As yet struggles the twelfth hour of the Night: 
birds of darkness are on the wing, spectres uproar, the dead walk, 
the living dream. Thou, Eternal Providence, wilt cause the day to 
dawn!' 2 

Such being the condition, temporal and spiritual, of the world at 
our Epoch, can we wonder that the world 'listens to itself,' and 
struggles and writhes, everywhere externally and internally, like a 
thing in pain ? Nay, is not even this unhealthy action of the world's 
Organisation, if the symptom of universal disease, yet also the symp- 
tom and sole means of restoration and cure? The effort of Nature, 
exerting her medicative force to cast-out foreign impediments, and 
once more become One, become whole? In Practice, still more in 
Opinion, which is the precursor and prototype of Practice, there 
must needs be collision, convulsion; much has to be ground away. 
Thought must needs be Doubt and Inquiry, before it can again be 
Affirmation and Sacred Precept. Innumerable 'Philosophies of Man,' 
contending in boundless hubbub, must annihilate each other, before 
an inspired Poesy and Faith for Man can fashion itself together. 

From this stunning hubbub, a true Babel-like confusion of tongues, 
we have here selected two Voices; less as objects of praise or con- 
demnation, than as signs how far the confusion has reached, what 

2 Jean Paul's Hesperus (Vorrede). 



CHARACTERISTICS 347 

prospect there is of its abating. Friedrich SchlegeFs Lectures deliv- 
ered at Dresden, and Mr. Hope's Essay published in London, are 
the latest utterances of European Speculation: far asunder in exter- 
nal place, they stand at a still wider distance in inward purport; are, 
indeed, so opposite and yet so cognate that they may, in many senses, 
represent the two Extremes of our whole modern system of 
Thought; and be said to include between them all the Metaphysical 
Philosophies, so often alluded to here, which, of late times, from 
France, Germany, England, have agitated and almost overwhelmed 
us. Both in regard to matter and to form, the relation of these two 
Works is significant enough. 

Speaking first of their cognate qualities, let us remark, not without 
emotion, one quite extraneous point of agreement; the fact that the 
Writers of both have departed from this world; they have now fin- 
ished their search, and had all doubts resolved: while we listen to 
the voice, the tongue that uttered it has gone silent forever. But 
the fundamental, all-pervading similarity lies in this circumstance, 
well worthy of being noted, that both these Philosophies are of the 
Dogmatic or Constructive sort: each in its way is a kind of Genesis; 
an endeavour to bring the Phenomena of man's Universe once more 
under some theoretic Scheme: in both there is a decided principle 
of unity; they strive after a result which shall be positive; their aim 
is not to question, but to establish. This, especially if we consider 
with what comprehensive concentrated force it is here exhibited, 
forms a new feature in such works. 

Under all other aspects, there is the most irreconcilable opposition; 
a staring contrariety, such as might provoke contrasts, were there 
far fewer points of comparison. If Schlegel's Work is the apotheosis 
of Spiritualism; Hope's again is the apotheosis of Materialism: in 
the one, all Matter is evaporated into a Phenomenon, and terrestrial 
Life itself, with its whole doings and showings, held out as a Dis- 
turbance (Zerriittung) produced by the Zeitgeist (Spirit of Time) ; 
in the other, Matter is distilled and sublimated into some semblance 
of Divinity: the one regards Space and Time as mere forms of 
man's mind, and without external existence or reality; the other 
supposes Space and Time to be 'incessantly created,' and rayed-in 
upon us like a sort of gravitation.' Such is their difference in respect 



THOMAS CARLYLE 

of purport: no less striking is it in respect of manner, talent, success 
and all outward characteristics. Thus, if in Schlegel we have to ad- 
mire the power of Words, in Hope we stand astonished, it might 
almost be said, at the want of an articulate Language. To Schlegel 
his Philosophic Speech is obedient, dexterous, exact, like a promptly 
ministering genius; his names are so clear, so precise and vivid, that 
they almost (sometimes altogether) become things for him: with 
Hope there is no Philosophical Speech; but a painful, confused 
stammering, and struggling after such; or the tongue, as in doatish 
forgetfulness, maunders, low, long-winded, and speaks not the word 
intended, but another; so that here the scarcely intelligible, in these 
endless convolutions, becomes the wholly unreadable; and often we 
could ask, as that mad pupil did of his tutor in Philosophy, "But 
whether is Virtue a fluid, then, or a gas?" If the fact, that Schlegel, 
in the city of Dresden, could find audience for such high discourse, 
may excite our envy; this other fact, that a person of strong powers, 
skilled in English Thought and master of its Dialect, could write 
the Origin and Prospects of Man, may painfully remind us of the 
reproach, that England has now no language for Meditation; that 
England, the most calculative, is the least meditative, of all civilised 
countries. 

It is not our purpose to offer any criticism of Schlegel's Book; in 
such limits as were possible here, we should despair of communicat- 
ing even the faintest image of its significance. To the mass of 
readers, indeed, both among the Germans themselves, and still more 
elsewhere, it nowise addresses itself, and may lie forever sealed. We 
point it out as a remarkable document of the Time and of the Man ; 
can recommend it, moreover, to all earnest Thinkers, as a work de- 
serving their best regard; a work full of deep meditation, wherein 
the infinite mystery of Life, if not represented, is decisively recog- 
nised. Of Schlegel himself, and his character, and spiritual history, 
we can profess no thorough or final understanding; yet enough to 
make us view him with admiration and pity, nowise with harsh 
contemptuous censure; and must say, with clearest persuasion, that 
the outcry of his being 'a renegade,' and so forth, is but like other 
such outcries, a judgment where there was neither jury, nor evi- 
dence, nor judge. The candid reader, in this Book itself, to say 



CHARACTERISTICS 349 

nothing o all the rest, will find traces of a high, far-seeing, earnest 
spirit, to whom 'Austrian Pensions,' and the Kaiser's crown, and 
Austria altogether, were but a light matter to the finding and 
vitally appropriating of Truth. Let us respect the sacred mystery 
of a Person; rush not irreverently into man's Holy of Holies! Were 
the lost little one, as we said already, found 'sucking its dead mother, 
on the field of carnage,' could it be other than a spectacle for tears ? 
A solemn mournful feeling comes over us when we see this last 
Work of Friedrich Schlegel, the unwearied seeker, end abruptly in 
the middle; and, as if he had not yet found, as if emblematically of 
much, end with an 'Aber' with a 'But'! This was the last word 
that came from the Pen of Friedrich Schlegel : about eleven at night 
he wrote it down, and there paused sick; at one in the morning, 
Time for him had merged itself in Eternity; he was, as we say, no 
more. 

Still less can we attempt any criticism of Mr. Hope's new Book of 
Genesis. Indeed, under any circumstances, criticism of it were now 
impossible. Such an utterance could only be responded to in peals 
of laughter; and laughter sounds hollow and hideous through the 
vaults of the dead. Of this monstrous Anomaly, where all sciences 
are heaped and huddled together, and the principles of all are, with 
a childlike innocence, plied hither and thither, or wholly abolished 
in case of need; where the First Cause is figured as a huge Circle, 
with nothing to do but radiate 'gravitation' towards its centre; and 
so construct a Universe, wherein all, from the lowest cucumber with 
its coolness, up to the highest seraph with his love, were but 'gravi- 
tation,' direct or reflex, 'in more or less central globes,' what can 
we say, except, with sorrow and shame, that it could have originated 
nowhere save in England? It is a general agglomerate of all facts, 
notions, whims and observations, as they lie in the brain of an 
English gentleman; as an English gentleman, of unusual thinking 
power, is led to fashion them, in his schools and in his world: all 
these thrown into the crucible, and if not fused, yet soldered or 
conglutinated with boundless patience; and now tumbled out here, 
heterogeneous, amorphous, unspeakable, a world's wonder. Most 
melancholy must we name the whole business; full of long-con- 
tinued thought, earnestness, loftiness of mind; not without glances 



35 THOMAS CARLYLE 

into the Deepest, a constant fearless endeavour after truth; and with 
all this nothing accomplished, but the perhaps absurdest Book writ- 
ten in our century by a thinking man. A shameful Abortion; which, 
however, need not now be smothered or mangled, for it is already 
dead; only, in our love and sorrowing reverence for the writer of 
Anastasius, and the heroic seeker of Light, though not bringer 
thereof, let it be buried and forgotten. 

For ourselves, the loud discord which jars in these two Works, in 
innumerable works of the like import, and generally in all the 
Thought and Action of this period, does not any longer utterly con- 
fuse us. Unhappy who, in such a time, felt not, at all conjunctures, 
ineradicably in his heart the knowledge that a God made this Uni- 
verse, and a Demon not! And shall Evil always prosper then? Out 
of all Evil comes Good? and no Good that is possible but shall one 
day be real. Deep and sad as is our feeling that we stand yet in the 
bodeful Night; equally deep, indestructible is our assurance that 
the Morning also will not fail. Nay, already, as we look round, 
streaks of a day spring are in the east; it is dawning; when the 
time shall be fulfilled, it will be day. The progress of man towards 
higher and nobler developments of whatever is highest and noblest 
in him, lies not only prophesied to Faith, but now written to the 
eye of Observation, so that he who runs may read. 

One great step of progress, for example, we should say, in actual 
circumstances, was this same; the clear ascertainment that we are 
in progress. About the grand Course of Providence, and his final 
Purposes with us, we can know nothing, or almost nothing: man 
begins in darkness, ends in darkness : mystery is everywhere around 
us and in us, under our feet, among our hands. Nevertheless so 
much has become evident to every one, that this wondrous Man- 
kind is advancing somewhither; that at least all human things are, 
have been and forever will be, in Movement and Change; as, in- 
deed, for beings that exist in Time, by virtue of Time, and are 
made of Time, might have been long since understood. In some 
provinces, it is true, as in Experimental Science, this discovery is an 
old one; but in most others it belongs wholly to these latter days. 
How often, in former ages, by eternal Creeds, eternal Forms of 



CHARACTERISTICS 35 1 

Government and the like, has it been attempted, fiercely enough, 
and with destructive violence, to chain the Future under the Past; 
and say to the Providence, whose ways with man are mysterious, 
and through the great deep: Hitherto shalt thou come, but no far- 
ther! A wholly insane attempt; and for man himself, could it pros- 
per, the frightfulest of all enchantments, a very Life-in-Death. 
Man's task here below, the destiny of every individual man, is to be 
in turns Apprentice and Workman; or say rather, Scholar, Teacher, 
Discoverer: by nature he has a strength for learning, for imitating; 
but also a strength for acting, for knowing on his own account. 
Are we not in a world seen to be Infinite; the relations lying closest 
together modified by those latest discovered and lying farthest 
asunder? Could you ever spell-bind man into a Scholar merely, so 
that he had nothing to discover, to correct; could you ever establish 
a Theory of the Universe that were entire, unimprovable, and which 
needed only to be got by heart; man then were spiritually defunct, 
the Species we now name Man had ceased to exist. But the gods, 
kinder to us than we are to ourselves, have forbidden such suicidal 
acts. As Phlogiston is displaced by Oxygen, and the Epicycles of 
Ptolemy by the Ellipses of Kepler; so does Paganism give place to 
Catholicism, Tyranny to Monarchy, and Feudalism to Representa- 
tive Government, where also the process does not stop. Perfection 
of Practice, like completeness of Opinion, is always approaching, 
never arrived; Truth, in the words of Schiller, immer wird, nie ist; 
never is, always is a-being. 

Sad, truly, were our condition did we know but this, that Change 
is universal and inevitable. Launched into a dark shoreless sea of 
Pyrrhonism, what would remain for us but to sail aimless, hopeless; 
or make madly merry, while the devouring Death had not yet in- 
gulfed us? As indeed, we have seen many, and still see many do. 
Nevertheless so stands it not. The venerator of the Past (and to 
what pure heart is the Past, in that 'moonlight of memory,' other 
than sad and holy?) sorrows not over its departure, as one utterly 
bereaved. The true Past departs not, nothing that was worthy in 
the Past departs; no Truth of Goodness realised by man ever dies, 
or can die; but is all still here, and, recognised or not, lives and 
works through endless changes. If all things, to speak in the 



352 THOMAS CARLYLE 

German dialect, are discerned by us, and exist for us, in an element 
of Time, and therefore of Mortality and Mutability; yet Time itself 
reposes on Eternity: the truly Great and Transcendental has its basis 
and substance in Eternity; stands revealed to us as Eternity in a 
vesture of Time. Thus in all Poetry, Worship, Art, Society, as one 
form passes into another, nothing is lost; it is but the superficial, as 
it were the body only, that grows obsolete and dies; under the mortal 
body lies a soul which is immortal; which anew incarnates itself in 
fairer revelation; and the Present is the living sum-total of the whole 
Past. 

In Change, therefore, there is nothing terrible, nothing super- 
natural: on the contrary, it lies in the very essence of our lot and 
life in this world. Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; 
how can our Works and Thoughts, if they are always to be the 
fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed, is painful; yet 
ever needful; and if Memory have its force and worth, so also has 
Hope. Nay, if we look well to it, what is all Derangement, and 
necessity of great Change, in itself such an evil, but the product 
simply of increased resources which the old methods can no longer 
administer; of new wealth which the old coffers will no longer con- 
tain? What is it, for example, that in our own day bursts asunder 
the bonds of ancient Political Systems, and perplexes all Europe 
with the fear of Change, but even this: the increase of social re- 
sources, which the old social methods will no longer sufficiently 
administer? The new omnipotence of the Steam-engine is hewing 
asunder quite other mountains than the physical. Have not our 
economical distresses, those barnyard Conflagrations themselves, the 
frightfulest madness of our mad epoch, their rise also in what is a 
real increase: increase of Men; of human Force; properly, in such 
a Planet as ours, the most precious of all increases ? It is true again, 
the ancient methods of administration will no longer suffice. Must 
the indomitable millions, full of old Saxon energy and fire, lie 
cooped-up in this Western Nook, choking one another, as in a 
Blackhole of Calcutta, while a whole fertile untenanted Earth, deso- 
late for want of the ploughshare, cries : Come and till me, come and 
reap me? If the ancient Captains can no longer yield guidance, new 
must be sought after: for the difficulty lies not in nature, but in arti- 



CHARACTERISTICS 353 

fice; the European Calcutta-Blackhole has no walls but air ones and 
paper ones. So too, Scepticism itself, with its innumerable mischiefs, 
what is it but the sour fruit of a most blessed increase, that of Knowl- 
edge; a fruit too that will not always continue sour? 

In fact, much as we have said and mourned about the unproduc- 
tive prevalence of Metaphysics, it was not without some insight into 
the use that lies in them. Metaphysical Speculation, if a necessary 
evil, is the forerunner of much good. The fever of Scepticism must 
needs burn itself out, and burn out thereby the Impurities that 
caused it; then again will there be clearness, health. The principle 
of life, which now struggles painfully, in the outer, thin and barren 
domain of the Conscious or Mechanical, may then withdraw into 
its inner sanctuaries, its abysses of mystery and miracle; withdraw 
deeper than ever into that domain of the Unconscious, by nature 
infinite and inexhaustible; and creatively work there. From that 
mystic region, and from that alone, all wonders, all Poesies, and 
Religions, and Social Systems have proceeded : the like wonders, and 
greater and higher, lie slumbering there; and, brooded on by the 
spirit of the waters, will evolve themselves, and rise like exhalations 
from the Deep. 

Of our Modern Metaphysics, accordingly, may not this already be 
said, that if they have produced no Affirmation, they have destroyed 
much Negation? It is a disease expelling a disease: the fire of 
Doubt, as above hinted, consuming away the Doubtful; that so the 
Certain come to light, and again lie visible on the surface. English 
or French Metaphysics, in reference to this last stage of the specu- 
lative process, are not what we allude to here; but only the Meta- 
physics of the Germans. In France or England, since the days of 
Diderot and Hume, though all thought has been of a sceptico- 
metaphysical texture, so far as there was any Thought, we have seen 
no Metaphysics; but only more or less ineffectual questionings 
whether such could be. In the Pyrrhonism of Hume and the Ma- 
terialism of Diderot, Logic had, as it were, overshot itself, overset 
itself. Now, though the athlete, to use our old figure, cannot, by 
much lifting, lift up his own body, he may shift it out of a laming 
posture, and get to stand in a free one. Such a service have German 
Metaphysics done for man's mind. The second sickness of Specula- 



354 THOMAS CARLYLE 

tion has abolished both itself and the first. Friedrich Schlegel com- 
plains much of the fruitlessness, the tumult and transiency of Ger- 
man as of all Metaphysics; and with reason. Yet in that wide- 
spreading, deep-whirling vortex of Kantism, so soon metamorphosed 
into Fichteism, Schellingism, and then as Hegelism, and Cousinism, 
perhaps finally evaporated, is not this issue visible enough, That 
Pyrrhonism and Materialism, themselves necessary phenomena in 
European culture, have disappeared; and a Faith in Religion has 
again become possible and inevitable for the scientific mind; and 
the word Frre-thinker no longer means the Denier or Caviller, but 
the Believer, or the Ready to believe? Nay, in the higher Literature 
of Germany, there already lies, for him that can read it, the begin- 
ning of a new revelation of the Godlike; as yet unrecognised by the 
mass of the world; but waiting there for recognition, and sure to 
find it when the fit hour comes. This age also is not wholly without 
its Prophets. 

Again, under another aspect, if Utilitarianism, or Radicalism, or 
the Mechanical Philosophy, or by whatever name it is called, has 
still its long task to do; nevertheless we can now see through it 
and beyond it: in the better heads, even among us English, it has 
become obsolete; as in other countries, it has been, in such heads, for 
some forty or even fifty years. What sound mind among the French, 
for example, now fancies that men can be governed by 'Constitu- 
tions'; by the never so cunning mechanising of Self-interests, and 
all conceivable adjustments of checking and balancing; in a word, 
by the best possible solution of this quite insoluble and impossible 
problem, Given a world of Knaves, to produce an Honesty from 
their united action? Were not experiments enough of this kind 
tried before all Europe, and found wanting, when, in that doomsday 
of France, the infinite gulf of human Passion shivered asunder the 
thin rinds of Habit; and burst forth all-devouring, as in seas of 
Nether Fire? Which cunningly-devised 'Constitution,' constitu- 
tional, republican, democratic, sansculottic, could bind that raging 
chasm together? Were they not all burnt up, like paper as they 
were, in its molten eddies; and still the fire-sea raged fiercer than 
before? It is not by Mechanism, but by Religion; not by Self-interest, 
but by Loyalty, that men are governed or governable. 



CHARACTERISTICS 355 

Remarkable it is, truly, how everywhere the eternal fact begins 
again to be recognised, that there is a Godlike in human affairs ; 
that God not only made us and beholds us, but is in us and around 
us; that the Age of Miracles, as it ever was, now is. Such recognition 
we discern on all hands and in all countries: in each country after 
its own fashion. In France, among the younger nobler minds, 
strangely enough; where, in their loud contention with the Actual 
and Conscious, the Ideal or Unconscious is, for the time, without 
exponent; where Religion means not the parent of Polity, as of all 
that is highest, but Polity itself; and this and the other earnest man 
has not been wanting, who could audibly whisper to himself: 'Go 
to, I will make a religion.' In England still more strangely; as in 
all things, worthy England will have its way: by the shrieking of 
hysterical women, casting out of devils, and other 'gifts of the Holy 
Ghost.' Well might Jean Paul say, in this his twelfth hour of the 
Night, 'the living dream'; well might he say, 'the dead walk.' Mean- 
while let us rejoice rather that so much has been seen into, were 
it through never so diffracting media, and never so madly distorted; 
that in all dialects, though but half-articulately, this high Gospel 
begins to be preached : Man is still Man. The genius of Mechanism, 
as was once before predicted, will not always sit like a choking 
incubus on our soul; but at length, when by a new magic Word 
the old spell is broken, become our slave, and as familiar-spirit do 
all our bidding. 'We are near awakening when we dream that we 
dream.' 

He that has an eye and a heart can even now say : Why should I 
falter? Light has come into the world; to such as love Light, so as 
Light must be loved, with a boundless all-doing, all-enduring love. 
For the rest, let that vain struggle to read the mystery of the Infinite 
cease to harass us. It is a mystery which, through all ages, we shall 
only read here a line of, there another line of. Do we not already 
know that the name of the Infinite is GOOD, is GOD ? Here on Earth 
we are Soldiers, fighting in a foreign land; that understand not the 
plan of the campaign, and have no need to understand it; seeing 
well what is at our hand to be done. Let us do it like Soldiers; with 
submission, with courage, with a heroic joy. 'Whatsoever thy hand 
fmdeth to do, do it with all thy might.' Behind us, behind each one 



356 THOMAS CARLYLE 

of us, lie Six Thousand Years of human effort, human conquest: 
before us is the boundless Time, with its as yet uncreated and un- 
conquered Continents and Eldorados, which we, even we, have to 
conquer, to create; and from the bosom of Eternity there shine for 
us celestial guiding stars. 

'My inheritance how wide and fair! 

Time is my fair seed-field, of Time I'm heir.' 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS AT 
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY 



BY 
THOMAS CARLYLE 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS AT 
EDINBURGH 

2ND APRIL 1866 

ON BEING INSTALLED AS RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY THERE 

GNTLEMEN, I have accepted the office you have elected 
ne to, and it is now my duty to return thanks for the great 
lonour done me. Your enthusiasm towards me, I must 
admit, is in itself very beautiful, however undeserved it may be in re- 
gard to the object of it. It is a feeling honourable to all men, and one 
well known to myself when I was of an age like yours, nor is it yet 
quite gone. I can only hope that, with you, too, it may endure to 
the end, this noble desire to honour those whom you think worthy 
of honour; and that you will come to be more and more select and 
discriminate in the choice of the object of it: for I can well under- 
stand that you will modify your opinions of me and of many things 
else, as you go on [Laughter and cheers}. It is now fifty-six years, 
gone last November, since I first entered your City, a boy of not 
quite fourteen; to 'attend the classes' here, and gain knowledge of 
all kinds, I could little guess what, my poor mind full of wonder 
and awe-struck expectation; and now, after a long course, this is 
what we have come to [Cheers}. There is something touching and 
tragic, and yet at the same time beautiful, to see, as it were, the 
third generation of my dear old native land rising up and saying, 
"Well, you are not altogether an unworthy labourer in the vine- 
yard; you have toiled through a great variety of fortunes, and have 
had many judges: this is our judgment of you!" As the old proverb 
says, 'He that builds by the wayside has many masters.' We must 
expect a variety of judges: but the voice of young Scotland, through 
you, is really of some value to me; and I return you many thanks for 
it, though I cannot go into describing my emotions to you, and 

359 



360 THOMAS CARLYLE 

perhaps they will be much more perfectly conceivable if expressed in 
silence [Cheers]. 

When this office was first proposed to me, some of you know I 
was not very ambitious to accept it, but had my doubts rather. I 
was taught to believe that there were certain more or less impor- 
tant duties which would lie in my power. This, I confess, was my 
chief motive in going into it, and overcoming the objections I felt to 
such things: if it could do anything to serve my dear old Alma 
Mater and you, why should not I? [Loud cheers.] Well, but on 
practically looking into the matter when the office actually came 
into my hands, I find it grows more and more uncertain and 
abstruse to me whether there is much real duty that I can do at all. 
I live four hundred miles away from you, in an entirely different 
scene of things; and my weak health, with the burden of the many 
years now accumulating on me, and my total unacquaintance with 
such subjects as concern your affairs here, all this fills me with 
apprehension that there is really nothing worth the least considera- 
tion that I can do on that score. You may depend on it, however, 
that if any such duty does arise in any form, I will use my most 
faithful endeavour to do in it whatever is right and proper, accord- 
ing to the best of my judgment [Cheers]. 

Meanwhile, the duty I at present have, which might be very 
pleasant, but which is not quite so, for reasons you may fancy, is 
to address some words to you, if possible not quite useless nor incon- 
gruous to the occasion, and on subjects more or less cognate to the 
pursuits you are engaged in. Accordingly, I mean to offer you some 
loose observations, loose in point of order, but the truest I have, in 
such form as they may present themselves; certain of the thoughts 
that are in me about the business you are here engaged in, what 
kind of race it is that you young gentlemen have started on, and 
what sort of arena you are likely to find in this world. I ought, I 
believe, according to custom, to have written all that down on 
paper, and had it read out. That would have been much handier for 
me at the present moment [A laugh ] ; but on attempting the thing, 
I found I was not used to write speeches, and that I didn't get on 
very well. So I flung that aside; and could only resolve to trust, 
in all superficial respects, to the suggestion of the moment, as you 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 361 

now see. You will therefore have to accept what is readiest; what 
comes direct from the heart; and you must just take that in com- 
pensation for any good order or arrangement there might have 
been in it. I will endeavour to say nothing that is not true, so far 
as I can manage; and that is pretty much all I can engage for [A 
laugh]. 

Advices, I believe, to young men, as to all men, are very seldom 
much valued. There is a great deal of advising, and very little faith- 
ful performing; and talk that does not end in any kind of action 
is better suppressed altogether. I would not, therefore, go much into 
advising; but there is one advice I must give you. In fact, it is the 
summary of all advices, and doubtless you have heard it a thousand 
times; but I must nevertheless let you hear it the thousand-and-first 
time, for it is most intensely true, whether you will believe it at 
present or not: namely, That above all things the interest of your 
whole life depends on your being diligent, now while it is called 
to-day, in this place where you have come to get education! Dili- 
gent: that includes in it all virtues that a student can have; I mean 
it to include all those qualities of conduct that lead on to the ac- 
quirement of real instruction and improvement in such a place. If 
you will believe me, you who are young, yours is the golden season 
of life. As you have heard it called, so it verily is, the seed-time of 
life; in which, if you do not sow, or if you sow tares instead of 
wheat, you cannot expect to reap well afterwards, and you will 
arrive at little. And in the course of years when you come to look 
back, if you have not done what you have heard from your advisers, 
and among many counsellors there is wisdom, you will bitterly 
repent when it is too late. The habits of study acquired at Univer- 
sities are of the highest importance in after-life. At the season when 
you are young in years, the whole mind is, as it were, fluid, and is 
capable of forming itself into any shape that the owner of the mind 
pleases to allow it, or constrain it, to form itself into. The mind is 
then in a plastic or fluid state; but it hardens gradually, to the con- 
sistency of rock or of iron, and you cannot alter the habits of an 
old man: he, as he has begun, so he will proceed and go on to 
the last. 

By diligence I mean, among other things, and very chiefly too, 



362 THOMAS CARLYLE 

honesty, in all your inquiries, and in all you are about. Pursue your 
studies in the way your conscience can name honest. More and 
more endeavour to do that. Keep, I should say for one thing, an 
accurate separation between what you have really come to know in 
your minds and what is still unknown. Leave all that latter on 
the hypothetical side of the barrier, as things afterwards to be ac- 
quired, if acquired at all; and be careful not to admit a thing as 
known when you do not yet know it. Count a thing known 
only when it is imprinted clearly on your mind, and has become 
transparent to you, so that you may survey it on all sides with intel- 
ligence. There is such a thing as a man endeavouring to persuade 
himself, and endeavouring to persuade others, that he knows things, 
when he does not know more than the outside skin of them; and 
yet he goes flourishing about with them [Hear, hear, and a laugh]. 
There is also a process called cramming, in some Universities [A 
laugh], that is, getting-up such points of things as the examiner 
is likely to put questions about. Avoid all that, as entirely unworthy 
of an honourable mind. Be modest, and humble, and assiduous in 
your attention to what your teachers tell you, who are profoundly 
interested in trying to bring you forward in the right way, so far as 
they have been able to understand it. Try all things they set before 
you, in order, if possible, to understand them, and to follow and 
adopt them in proportion to their fitness for you. Gradually see what 
kind of work you individually can do; it is the first of all problems 
for a man to find out what kind of work he is to do in this uni- 
verse. In short, morality as regards study is, as in all other things, 
the primary consideration, and overrules all others. A dishonest man 
cannot do anything real; he never will study with real fruit; and 
perhaps it would be greatly better if he were tied up from trying it. 
He does nothing but darken counsel by the words he utters. That 
is a very old doctrine, but a very true one; and you will find it con- 
firmed by all the thinking men that have ever lived in this long 
series of generations of which we are the latest. 

I dare say you know, very many of you, that it is now some seven 
hundred years since Universities were first set-up in this world of 
ours. Abelard and other thinkers had arisen with doctrines in them 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 363 

which people wished to hear of, and students flocked towards them 
from all parts of the world. There was no getting the thing recorded 
in books, as you now may. You had to hear the man speaking to 
you, vocally, or else you could not learn at all what it was that he 
wanted to say. And so they gathered together, these speaking ones, 
the various people who had anything to teach; and formed them- 
selves gradually, under the patronage of kings and other potentates 
who were anxious about the culture of their populations, and nobly- 
studious of their best benefit; and became a body-corporate, with 
high privileges, high dignities, and really high aims, under the title 
of a University. 

Possibly too you may have heard it said that the course of 
centuries has changed all this; and that 'the true University of our 
days is a Collection of Books.' And beyond doubt, all this is greatly 
altered by the invention of Printing, which took place about mid- 
way between us and the origin of Universities. Men have not now 
to go in person to where a Professor is actually speaking; because 
in most cases you can get his doctrine out of him through a book; 
and can then read it, and read it again and again, and study it. 
That is an immense change, that one fact of Printed Books. And 
I am not sure that I know of any University in which the whole 
of that fact has yet been completely taken in, and the studies 
moulded in complete conformity with it. Nevertheless, Universities 
have, and will continue to have, an indispensable value in society; 
I think, a very high, and it might be, almost the highest value. 
They began, as is well known, with their grand aim directed on 
Theology, their eye turned earnestly on Heaven. And perhaps, 
in a sense, it may be still said, the very highest interests of man are 
virtually intrusted to them. In regard to theology, as you are 
aware, it has been, and especially was then, the study of the deepest 
heads that have come into the world, what is the nature of this 
stupendous Universe, and what are our relations to it, and to all 
things knowable by man, or known only to the great Author of 
man and it. Theology was once the name for all this; all this is 
still alive for man, however dead the name may grow! In fact, the 
members of the Church keeping theology in a lively condition 
[Laughter] for the benefit of the whole population, theology was 



364 THOMAS CARLYLE 

the great object of the Universities. I consider it is the same 
intrinsically now, though very much forgotten, from many causes, 
and not so successful [A laugh] as might be wished, by any manner 
of means! 

It remains, however, practically a most important truth, what I 
alluded to above, that the main use of Universities in the present 
age is that, after you have done with all your classes, the next 
thing is a collection of books, a great library of good books, which 
you proceed to study and to read. What the Universities can 
mainly do for you, what I have found the University did for me, 
is, That it taught me to read, in various languages, in various 
sciences; so that I could go into the books which treated of these 
things, and gradually penetrate into any department I wanted to 
make myself master of, as I found it suit me. 

Well, Gentlemen, whatever you may think of these historical 
points, the clearest and most imperative duty lies on every one of 
you to be assiduous in your reading. Learn to be good readers, 
which is perhaps a more difficult thing than you imagine. Learn 
to be discriminative in your reading; to read faithfully, and with 
your best attention, all kinds of things which you have a real interest 
in, a real not an imaginary, and which you find to be really fit for 
what you are engaged in. Of course, at the present time, in a great 
deal of the reading incumbent on you, you must be guided by the 
books recommended by your Professors for assistance towards the 
effect of their prelections. And then, when you leave the University, 
and go into studies of your own, you will find it very important 
that you have chosen a field, some province specially suited to you, 
in which you can study and work. The most unhappy of all men 
is the man who cannot tell what he is going to do, who has got no 
work cut-out for him in the world, and does not go into it. For 
work is the grand cure of all the maladies and miseries that ever 
beset mankind, honest work, which you intend getting done. 

If, in any vacant vague time, you are in a strait as to choice of 
reading, a very good indication for you, perhaps the best you could 
get, is toward some book you have a great curiosity about. You 
are then in the readiest and best of all possible conditions to improve 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 365 

by that book. It is analogous to what doctors tell us about the 
physical health and appetites of the patient. You must learn, how- 
ever, to distinguish between false appetite and true. There is such 
a thing as a false appetite, which will lead a man into vagaries with 
regard to diet; will tempt him to eat spicy things, which he should 
not eat at all, nor would, but that the things are toothsome, and 
that he is under a momentary baseness of mind. A man ought to 
examine and find out what he really and truly has an appetite for, 
what suits his constitution and condition; and that, doctors tell 
him, is in general the very thing he ought to have. And so with 
books. 

As applicable to all of you, I will say that it is highly expedient 
to go into History; to inquire into what has passed before you on 
this Earth, and in the Family of Man. 

The history of the Romans and Greeks will first of all concern 
you; and you will find that the classical knowledge you have got 
will be extremely applicable to elucidate that. There you have two 
of the most remarkable races of men in the world set before you, 
calculated to open innumerable reflections and considerations; a 
mighty advantage, if you can achieve it; to say nothing of what 
their two languages will yield you, which your Professors can better 
explain; model languages, which are universally admitted to be 
the most perfect forms of speech we have yet found to exist among 
men. And you will find, if you read well, a pair of extremely re- 
markable nations, shining in the records left by themselves, as a kind 
of beacon, or solitary mass of illumination, to light-up some noble 
forms of human life for us, in the otherwise utter darkness of the 
past ages; and it will be well worth your while if you can get into 
the understanding of what these people were, and what they did. 
You will find a great deal of hearsay, of empty rumour and tradi- 
tion, which does not touch on the matter; but perhaps some of you 
will get to see the old Roman and the old Greek face to face; you 
will know in some measure how they contrived to exist, and to 
perform their feats in the world. 

I believe, also, you will find one important thing not much noted, 
That there was a very great deal of deep religion in both nations. 
This is pointed out by the wiser kind of historians, and particularly 



366 THOMAS CARLYLE 

by Ferguson, who is very well worth reading on Roman History, 
and who, I believe, was an alumnus of our own University. His 
book is a very creditable work. He points out the profoundly 
religious nature of the Roman people, notwithstanding their rug- 
gedly positive, defiant and fierce ways. They believed that Jupiter 
Optimus Maximus was lord of the universe, and that he had ap- 
pointed the Romans to become the chief of nations, provided they 
followed his commands, to brave all danger, all difficulty, and 
stand up with an invincible front, and be ready to do and die; 
and also to have the same sacred regard to truth of promise, to 
thorough veracity, thorough integrity, and all the virtues that 
accompany that noblest quality of man, valour, to which latter the 
Romans gave the name of 'virtue' proper (virtus, manhood), as the 
crown and summary of all that is ennobling for a man. In the 
literary ages of Rome this religious feeling had very much decayed 
away; but it still retained its place among the lower classes of the 
Roman people. Of the deeply religious nature of the Greeks, along 
with their beautiful and sunny effulgences of art, you have striking 
proof, if you look for it. In the tragedies of Sophocles there is a 
most deep-toned recognition of the eternal justice of Heaven, and 
the unfailing punishment of crime against the laws of God. I 
believe you will find in all histories of nations, that this has been 
at the origin and foundation of them all; and that no nation which 
did not contemplate this wonderful universe with an awe-stricken 
and reverential belief that there was a great unknown, omnipotent, 
and all-wise and all-just Being, superintending all men in it, and 
all interest in it, no nation ever came to very much, nor did any 
man either, who forgot that. If a man did forget that, he forgot 
the most important part of his mission in this world. 

Our own history of England, which you will naturally take a 
great deal of pains to make yourselves acquainted with, you will 
find beyond all others worthy of your study. For indeed I believe 
that the British nation, including in that the Scottish nation, 
produced a finer set of men than any you will find it possible to get 
anywhere else in the world [Applause']. I don't know, in any 
history of Greece or Rome, where you will get so fine a man as 
Oliver Cromwell, for example [Applause']. And we too have had 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 367 

men worthy of memory, in our little corner of the Island here, as 
well as others; and our history has had its heroic features all along; 
and did become great at last in being connected with world-history : 
for if you examine well, you will find that John Knox was the 
author, as it were, of Oliver Cromwell; that the Puritan revolution 
never would have taken place in England at all, had it not been for 
that Scotchman [Applause]. That is an authentic fact, and is not 
prompted by national vanity on my part, but will stand examining 
[Laughter and applause}. 

In fact, if you look at the struggle that was then going on in 
England, as I have had to do in my time, you will see that people 
were overawed by the immense impediments lying in the way. A 
small minority of God-fearing men in that country were flying 
away, with any ship they could get, to New England, rather than 
take the lion by the beard. They durst not confront the powers 
with their most just complaints, and demands to be delivered from 
idolatry. They wanted to make the nation altogether conformable 
to the Hebrew Bible, which they, and all men, understood to be the 
exact transcript of the Will of God; and could there be, for man, 
a more legitimate aim ? Nevertheless, it would have been impossible 
in their circumstances, and not to be attempted at all, had not Knox 
succeeded in it here, some fifty years before, by the firmness and 
nobleness of his mind. For he also is of the select of the earth to 
me, John Knox [Applause}. What he has suffered from the un- 
grateful generations that have followed him should really make us 
humble ourselves to the dust, to think that the most excellent man 
our country has produced, to whom we owe everything that dis- 
tinguishes us among the nations, should have been so sneered at, 
misknown, and abused [Applause}. Knox was heard by Scotland; 
the people heard him, believed him to the marrow of their bones: 
they took up his doctrine, and they defied principalities and powers 
to move them from it. "We must have it," they said; "we will and 
must!" It was in this state of things that the Puritan struggle arose 
in England; and you know well how the Scottish earls and nobility, 
with their tenantry, marched away to Dunse Hill in 1639, an( ^ sat 
down there: just at the crisis of that struggle, when it was either to 
be suppressed or brought into greater vitality, they encamped on 



368 THOMAS CARLYLE 

Dunse Hill, thirty-thousand armed men, drawn out for that oc- 
casion, each regiment round its landlord, its earl, or whatever he 
might be called, and zealous all of them Tor Christ's Crown and 
Covenant.' That was the signal for all England's rising up into 
unappeasable determination to have the Gospel there also; and you 
know it went on, and came to be a contest whether the Parliament 
or the King should rule; whether it should be old formalities and 
use-and-wont, or something that had been of new conceived in the 
souls of men, namely, a divine determination to walk according 
to the laws of God here, as the sum of all prosperity; which of these 
should have the mastery: and after a long, long agony of struggle, 
it was decided the way we know. 

I should say also of that Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell's, not- 
withstanding the censures it has encountered, and the denial of 
everybody that it could continue in the world, and so on, it appears 
to me to have been, on the whole, the most salutary thing in the 
modern history of England. If Oliver Cromwell had continued it 
out, I don't know what it would have come to. It would have got 
corrupted probably in other hands, and could not have gone on; 
but it was pure and true, to the last fibre, in his mind; there was 
perfect truth in it while he ruled over it. 

Macchiavelli has remarked, in speaking of the Romans, that 
Democracy cannot long exist anywhere in the world; that as a mode 
of government, of national management or administration, it in- 
volves an impossibility, and after a little while must end in wreck. 
And he goes on proving that, in his own way. I do not ask you all 
to follow him in that conviction [Hear], but it is to him a clear 
truth; he considers it a solecism and impossibility that the universal 
mass of men should ever govern themselves. He has to admit of 
the Romans, that they continued a long time; but believes it was 
purely in virtue of this item in their constitution, namely, of their 
all having the conviction in their minds that it was solemnly neces- 
sary, at times, to appoint a Dictator; a man who had the power of 
life and death over everything, who degraded men out of their 
places, ordered them to execution, and did whatever seemed to him 
good in the name of God above him. He was commanded to take 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 369 

care that the republic suffer no detriment. And Macchiavelli cal- 
culates that this was the thing which purified the social system 
from time to time, and enabled it to continue as it did. Probable 
enough, if you consider it. And an extremely proper function 
surely, this of a Dictator, if the republic was composed of little other 
than bad and tumultuous men, triumphing in general over the 
better, and all going the bad road, in fact. Well, Oliver Cromwell's 
Protectorate, or Dictatorate if you will let me name it so, lasted for 
about ten years, and you will find that nothing which was contrary 
to the laws of Heaven was allowed to live by Oliver [Applause], 
For example, it was found by his Parliament of Notables, what 
they call the 'Barebones Parliament,' the most zealous of all Parlia- 
ments probably [Laughter], that the Court of Chancery in Eng- 
land was in a state which was really capable of no apology; no man 
could get up and say that that was a right court. There were, I 
think, fifteen-thousand, or fifteen-hundred [Laughter], I really 
don't remember which, but we will call it by the latter number, to 
be safe [Renewed laughter] ; there were fifteen-hundred cases lying 
in it undecided; and one of them, I remember, for a large amount 
of money, was eighty-three years old, and it was going on still; wigs 
were wagging over it, and lawyers were taking their fees, and 
there was no end of it. Upon view of all which, the Barebones people, 
after deliberation about it, thought it was expedient, and com- 
manded by the Author of Man and Fountain of Justice, and in the 
name of what was true and right, to abolish said court. Really, I 
don't know who could have dissented from that opinion. At the 
same time, it was thought by those who were wiser in their gen- 
eration, and had more experience of the world, that this was a very 
dangerous thing, and wouldn't suit at all. The lawyers began to 
make an immense noise about it [Laughter]. All the public, the 
great mass of solid and well-disposed people who had got no deep 
insight into such matters, were very adverse to it: and the Speaker 
of the Parliament, old Sir Francis Rous, who translated the Psalms 
for us, those that we sing here every Sunday in the Church yet; a 
very good man, and a wise and learned, Provost of Eton College 
afterwards, he got a great number of the Parliament to go to 
Oliver the Dictator, and lay down their functions altogether, and 



37 THOMAS CARLYLE 

declare officially, with their signature, on Monday morning, that 
the Parliament was dissolved. The act of abolition had been passed 
on Saturday night; and on Monday morning Rous came and said, 
"We cannot carry-on the affair any longer, and we remit it into 
the hands of your Highness." Oliver in that way became Protector, 
virtually in some sort a Dictator, for the first time. 

And I give you this as an instance that Oliver did faithfully set 
to doing a Dictator's function, and of his prudence in it as well. 
Oliver felt that the Parliament, now dismissed, had been perfectly 
right with regard to Chancery, and that there was no doubt of the 
propriety of abolishing Chancery, or else reforming it in some kind 
of way. He considered the matter, and this is what he did. He 
assembled fifty or sixty of the wisest lawyers to be found in Eng- 
land. Happily, there were men great in the law; men who valued 
the laws of England as much as anybody ever did; and who knew 
withal that there was something still more sacred than any of 
these [A laugh]. Oliver said to them, "Go and examine this thing, 
and in the name of God inform me what is necessary to be done 
with it. You will see how we may clean-out the foul things in that 
Chancery Court, which render it poison to everybody." Well, they 
sat down accordingly, and in the course of six weeks, (there was 
no public speaking then, no reporting of speeches, and no babble 
of any kind, there was just the business in hand) they got some 
sixty propositions fixed in their minds as the summary of the things 
that required to be done. And upon these sixty propositions, 
Chancery was reconstituted and remodelled; and so it got a new 
lease of life, and has lasted to our time. It had become a nuisance, 
and could not have continued much longer. That is an instance 
of the manner of things that were done when a Dictatorship pre- 
vailed in the country, and that was how the Dictator did them. I 
reckon, all England, Parliamentary England, got a new lease of 
life from that Dictatorship of Oliver's; and, on the whole, that the 
good fruits of it will never die while England exists as a nation. 

In general, I hardly think that out of common history-books you 
will ever get into the real history of this country, or ascertain any- 
thing which can specially illuminate it for you, and which it would 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 

most of all behoove you to know. You may read very ingenious 
and very clever books, by men whom it would be the height of 
insolence in me to do other than express my respect for. But their 
position is essentially sceptical. God and the Godlike, as our fathers 
would have said, has fallen asleep for them; and plays no part in 
their histories. A most sad and fatal condition of matters; who 
shall say how fatal to us all! A man unhappily in that condition 
will make but a temporary explanation of anything: in short, you 
will not be able, I believe, by aid of these men, to understand how 
this Island came to be what it is. You will not find it recorded in 
books. You will find recorded in books a jumble of tumults, dis- 
astrous ineptitudes, and all that kind of thing. But to get what you 
want, you will have to look into side sources, and inquire in all 
directions. 

I remember getting Collins's Peerage to read, a very poor per- 
formance as a work of genius, but an excellent book for diligence 
and fidelity. I was writing on Oliver Cromwell at the time 
[Applause]. I could get no biographical dictionary available; and 
I thought the Peerage Book, since most of my men were peers or 
sons of peers, would help me, at least would tell me whether people 
were old or young, where they lived, and the like particulars, better 
than absolute nescience and darkness. And accordingly I found 
amply all I had expected in poor Collins, and got a great deal of help 
out of him. He was a diligent dull London bookseller, of about a 
hundred years ago, who compiled out of all kinds of parchments, 
charter-chests, archives, books that were authentic, and gathered far 
and wide, wherever he could get it, the information wanted. He 
was a very meritorious man. 

I not only found the solution of everything I had expected there, 
hut I began gradually to perceive this immense fact, which I really 
advise every one of you who read history to look out for, if you 
have not already found it. It was that the Kings of England, all 
the way from the Norman Conquest down to the times of Charles 
I., had actually, in a good degree, so far as they knew, been in the 
habit of appointing as Peers those who deserved to be appointed. In 
general, I perceived, those Peers of theirs were all royal men of a 
sort, with minds full of justice, valour and humanity, and all kinds 



37 2 THOMAS CARLYLE 

of qualities that men ought to have who rule over others. And then 
their genealogy, the kind of sons and descendants they had, this 
also was remarkable: for there is a great deal more in genealogy 
than is generally believed at present. I never heard tell of any clever 
man that came of entirely stupid people [Laughter]. If you look 
around, among the families of your acquaintance, you will see such 
cases in all directions; I know that my own experience is steadily 
that way; I can trace the father, and the son, and the grandson, and 
the family stamp is quite distinctly legible upon each of them. So 
that it goes for a great deal, the hereditary principle, in Govern- 
ment as in other things; and it must be again recognised as soon as 
there is any fixity in things. You will remark, too, in your Collins, 
that, if at any time the genealogy of a peerage goes awry, if the man 
that actually holds the peerage is a fool, in those earnest practical 
times, the man soon gets into mischief, gets into treason probably, 
soon gets himself and his peerage extinguished altogether, in 
short. [Laughter] . 

From those old documents of Collins, you learn and ascertain that 
a peer conducts himself in a pious, high-minded, grave, dignified 
and manly kind of way, in his course through life, and when he 
takes leave of life: his last will is often a remarkable piece, which 
one lingers over. And then you perceive that there was kindness in 
him as well as rigour, pity for the poor; that he has fine hospitalities, 
generosities, in fine, that he is throughout much of a noble, good 
and valiant man. And that in general the King, with a beautiful 
approximation to accuracy, had nominated this kind of man; saying, 
"Come you to me, sir. Come out of the common level of the people, 
where you are liable to be trampled upon, jostled about, and can 
do in a manner nothing with your fine gift; come here and take a 
district of country, and make it into your own image more or less; 
be a king under me, and understand that that is your function." 
I say this is the most divine thing that a human being can do to 
other human beings, and no kind of thing whatever has so much 
of the character of God Almighty's Divine Government as that 
thing, which, we see, went en all over England for about six hun- 
dred years. That is the grand soul of England's history [Cheers]. 
It is historically true that, down to the time of James, or even 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 373 

Charles I., it was not understood that any man was made a Peer 
without having merit in him to constitute him a proper subject 
for a peerage. In Charles I.'s time it grew to be known or said 
that, if a man was born a gentleman, and cared to lay out 10,000 /. 
judiciously up and down among courtiers, he could be made a 
Peer. Under Charles II. it went on still faster, and has been going-on 
with ever-increasing velocity, until we see the perfectly breakneck 
pace at which they are going now [A laugh], so that now a peerage 
is a paltry kind of thing to what it was in those old times. I could 
go into a great many more details about things of that sort, but I 
must turn to another branch of the subject. 

First, however, one remark more about your reading. I do not 
know whether it has been sufficiently brought home to you that 
there are two kinds of books. When a man is reading on any kind 
of subject, in most departments of books, in all books, if you take 
it in a wide sense, he will find that there is a division into good 
books and bad books. Everywhere a good kind of book and a bad 
kind of book I am not to assume that you are unacquainted, or ill 
acquainted, with this plain fact; but I may remind you that it is 
becoming a very important consideration in our day. And we 
have to cast aside altogether the idea people have, that if they are 
reading any book, that if an ignorant man is reading any book, he 
is doing rather better than nothing at all. I must entirely call that 
in question; I even venture to deny that [Laughter and cheers]. 
It would be much safer and better for many a reader, that he had 
no concern with books at all. There is a number, a frightfully in- 
creasing number, of books that are decidedly, to the readers of them, 
not useful [Hear]. But an ingenuous reader will learn, also, that 
a certain number of books were written by a supremely noble kind 
of people, not a very great number of books, but still a number 
fit to occupy all your reading industry, do adhere more or less to 
that side of things. In short, as I have written it down somewhere 
else, I conceive that books are like men's souls; divided into sheep 
and goats [Laughter and cheers]. Some few are going up, and 
carrying us up, heavenward; calculated, I mean, to be of priceless 
advantage in teaching, in forwarding the teaching of all gen- 
erations. Others, a frightful multitude, are going down, down; 



374 THOMAS CARLYLE 

doing ever the more and the wider and the wilder mischief. Keep 
a strict eye on that latter class of books, my young friends! 

And for the rest, in regard to all your studies and readings here, 
and to whatever you may learn, you are to remember that the 
object is not particular knowledges, not that of getting higher, 
and higher in technical perfections, and all that sort of thing. 
There is a higher aim lying at the rear of all that, especially 
among those who are intended for literary or speaking pursuits, 
or the sacred profession. You are ever to bear in mind that 
there lies behind that the acquisition of what may be called wis- 
dom; namely, sound appreciation and just decision as to all the 
objects that come round you, and the habit of behaving with 
justice, candour, clear insight, and loyal adherence to fact. Great is 
wisdom; infinite is the value of wisdom. It cannot be exaggerated; 
it is the highest achievement of man: 'Blessed is he that getteth 
understanding.' And that, I believe, on occasion, may be missed 
very easily; never more easily than now, I sometimes think. If that 
is a failure, all is failure! However, I will not touch further upon 
that matter. 

But I should have said, in regard to book-reading, if it be so very 
important, how very useful would an excellent library be in every 
University! I hope that will not be neglected by the gentlemen who 
have charge of you; and, indeed, I am happy to hear that your 
library is very much improved since the time I knew it, and I hope 
it will go on improving more and more. Nay, I have sometimes 
thought, why should not there be a library in every county town, 
for benefit of those that could read well and might if permitted? 
True, you require money to accomplish that; and withal, what 
perhaps is still less attainable at present, you require judgment in 
the selectors of books; real insight into what is for the advantage 
of human souls, the exclusion of all kinds of claptrap books which 
merely excite the astonishment of foolish people [Laughter], and 
the choice of wise books, as much as possible of good books. Let 
us hope the future will be kind to us in this respect. 

In this University, as I learn from many sides, there is considerable 
stir about endowments; an assiduous and praiseworthy industry for 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 375 

getting new funds collected to encourage the ingenuous youth of 
Universities, especially of this our chief University [Hear, hear], 
Well, I entirely participate in everybody's approval of the movement. 
It is very desirable. It should be responded to, and one surely expects 
it will. At least, if it is not, it will be shameful to the country of 
Scotland, which never was so rich in money as at the present 
moment, and never stood so much in need of getting noble Uni- 
versities, and institutions to counteract many influences that are 
springing up alongside of money. It should not be slack in coming 
forward in the way of endowments [A laugh\\ at any rate, to the 
extent of rivalling our rude old barbarous ancestors, as we have been 
pleased to call them. Such munificence as theirs is beyond all praise; 
and to them, I am sorry to say, we are not yet by any manner of 
means equal, or approaching equality [Laughter']. There is an 
abundance and over-abundance of money. Sometimes I cannot help 
thinking that probably never has there been, at any other time, in 
Scotland, the hundredth part of the money that now is, or even 
the thousandth part. For wherever I go, there is that same gold- 
nuggeting [A laugh], that 'unexampled prosperity/ and men 
counting their balances by the million sterling. Money was never 
so abundant, and nothing that is good to be done with it [Hear, hear, 
and a laugh]. No man knows, or very few men know, what 
benefit to get out of his money. In fact, it too often is secretly a 
curse to him. Much better for him never to have had any. But I 
do not expect that generally to be believed [Laughter'}. Never- 
theless, I should think it would be a beneficent relief to many a rich 
man who has an honest purpose struggling in him, to bequeath 
some house of refuge, so to speak, for the gifted poor man who may 
hereafter be born into the world, to enable him to get on his way a 
little. To do, in fact, as those old Norman kings whom I have been 
describing; to raise some noble poor man out of the dirt and mud, 
where he is getting trampled on unworthily by the unworthy, into 
some kind of position where he might acquire the power to do a little 
good in his generation! I hope that as much as possible will be 
achieved in this direction; and that efforts will not be relaxed till 
the thing is in a satisfactory state. In regard to the classical depart- 
ment, above all, it surely is to be desired by us that it were properly 



37^ THOMAS CARLYLE 

supported, that we could allow the fit people to have their scholar- 
ships and subventions, and devote more leisure to the cultivation of 
particular departments. We might have more of this from Scotch 
Universities than we have; and I hope we shall. 

I am bound, however, to say that it does not appear as if, of late 
times, endowment were the real soul of the matter. The English, 
for example, are the richest people in the world for endowments in 
their Universities; and it is an evident fact that, since the time of 
Bentley, you cannot name anybody that has gained a European name 
in scholarship, or constituted a point of revolution in the pursuits 
of men in that way. The man who does so is a man worthy of being 
remembered; and he is poor, and not an Englishman. One man that 
actually did constitute a revolution was the son of a poor weaver in 
Saxony; who edited his Tibullus, in Dresden, in a poor comrade's 
garret, with the floor for his bed, and two folios for pillow; and 
who, while editing his Tibullus, had to gather peasecods on the 
streets and boil them for his dinner. That was his endowment 
[Laughter]. But he was recognised soon to have done a great thing. 
His name was Heyne [Cheers]. I can remember, it was quite 
a revolution in my mind when I got hold of that man's edition of 
Virgil. I found that, for the first time, I understood Virgil; that 
Heyne had introduced me, for the first time, into an insight of 
Roman life and ways of thought; had pointed out the circumstances 
in which these works were written, and given me their interpreta- 
tion. And the process has gone on in all manner of developments, 
and has spread out into other countries. 

On the whole, there is one reason why endowments are not given 
now as they were in old days, when men founded abbeys, colleges, 
and all kinds of things of that description, with such success as we 
know. All that has now changed; a vast decay of zeal in that direc- 
tion. And truly the reason may in part be, that people have become 
doubtful whether colleges are now the real sources of what I called 
wisdom; whether they are anything more, anything much more, 
than a cultivating of man in the specific arts. In fact, there has 
been in the world a suspicion of that kind for a long time [A laugh~\. 
There goes a proverb of old date, 'An ounce of mother-wit is worth 
a pound of clergy' [Laughter] . There is a suspicion that a man is 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 377 

perhaps not nearly so wise as he looks, or because he has poured 
out speech so copiously [Laughter']. When 'the seven free arts,' 
which the old Universities were based on, came to be modified a 
little, in order to be convenient for the wants of modern society, 
though perhaps some of them are obsolete enough even yet for 
some of us, there arose a feeling that mere vocality, mere culture 
of speech, if that is what comes out of a man, is not the synonym 
of wisdom by any means! That a man may be a 'great speaker,' as 
eloquent as you like, and but little real substance in him, especially 
if that is what was required and aimed at by the man himself, and 
by the community that set him upon becoming a learned man. 
Maid-servants, I hear people complaining, are getting instructed in 
the 'ologies,' and are apparently becoming more and more ignorant 
of brewing, boiling, and baking [Laughter}] and above all, are 
not taught what is necessary to be known, from the highest of us 
to the lowest, faithful obedience, modesty, humility, and correct 
moral conduct. 

Oh, it is a dismal chapter all that, if one went into it, what has 
been done by rushing after fine speech! I have written down some 
very fierce things about that, perhaps considerably more emphatic 
than I could now wish them to be; but they were and are deeply my 
conviction [Hear, hear}. There is very great necessity indeed of 
getting a little more silent than we are. It seems to me as if the 
finest nations of the world, the English and the American, in 
chief, were going all off into wind and tongue [Applause and 
laughter']. But it will appear sufficiently tragical by and by, long 
after I am away out of it. There is a time to speak, and a time to 
be silent. Silence withal is the eternal duty of a man. He won't get 
to any real understanding of what is complex, and what is more 
than aught else pertinent to his interests, without keeping silence 
too. 'Watch the tongue,' is a very old precept, and a most true one. 

I don't want to discourage any of you from your Demosthenes, 
and your studies of the niceties of language, and all that. Believe 
me, I value that as much as any one of you. I consider it a very 
graceful thing, and a most proper, for every human creature to 
know what the implement which he uses in communicating his 



THOMAS CARLYLE 

thoughts is, and how to make the very utmost of it. I want you to 
study Demosthenes, and to know all his excellencies. At the same 
time, I must say that speech, in the case even of Demosthenes, does 
not seem, on the whole, to have turned to almost any good account. 
He advised next to nothing that proved practicable; much of the 
reverse. Why tell me that a man is a fine speaker, if it is not the 
truth that he is speaking? Phocion, who mostly did not speak at 
all, was a great deal nearer hitting the mark than Demosthenes 
[Laughter] . He used to tell the Athenians, "You can't fight Philip. 
Better if you don't provoke him, as Demosthenes is always urging 
you to do. You have not the slightest chance with Philip. He is a 
man who holds his tongue; he has great disciplined armies; a full 
treasury; can bribe anybody you like in your cities here; he is 
going on steadily with an unvarying aim towards his object; while 
you, with your idle clamourings, with your Cleon the Tanner 
spouting to you what you take for wisdom ! Philip will infallibly 
beat any set of men such as you, going on raging from shore to 
shore with all that rampant nonsense." Demosthenes said to him 
once, "Phocion, you will drive the Athenians mad some day, and 
they will kill you." "Yes," Phocion answered, "me, when they go 
mad; and as soon as they get sane again, you!" [Laughter and 
applause. ,] 

It is also told of him how he went once to Messene, on some 
deputation which the Athenians wanted him to head, on some 
kind of matter of an intricate and contentious nature : Phocion went 
accordingly; and had, as usual, a clear story to have told for himself 
and his case. He was a man of few words, but all of them true and 
to the point. And so he had gone on telling his story for a while, 
when there arose some interruption. One man, interrupting with 
something, he tried to answer; then another, the like; till finally, 
too many went in, and all began arguing and bawling in endless 
debate. Whereupon Phocion struck-down his staff; drew back 
altogether, and would speak no other word to any man. It appears 
to me there is a kind of eloquence in that rap of Phocion's staff 
which is equal to anything Demosthenes ever said: "Take your 
own way, then; I go out of it altogether" [Applause], 

Such considerations, and manifold more connected with them, 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 379 

innumerable considerations, resulting from observation of the world 
at this epoch, have led various people to doubt of the salutary effect 
of vocal education altogether. I do not mean to say it should be 
entirely excluded; but I look to something that will take hold of 
the matter much more closely, and not allow it to slip out of our 
fingers, and remain worse than it was. For, if a 'good speaker,' 
never so eloquent, does not see into the fact, and is not speaking the 
truth of that, but the untruth and the mistake of that, is there a 
more horrid kind of object in creation? [Loud Cheers.] Of such 
speech I hear all manner of people say "How excellent!" Well, 
really it is not the speech, but the thing spoken, that I am anxious 
about! I really care very little how the man said it, provided I 
understand him, and it be true. Excellent speaker ? But what if he 
is telling me things that are contrary to the fact; what if he has 
formed a wrong judgment about the fact, if he has in his mind 
(like Phocion's friend, Cleon the Tanner) no power to form a 
right judgment in regard to the matter? An excellent speaker of 
that kind is, as it were, saying, "Ho, every one that wants to be 
persuaded of the thing that is not true; here is the man for you!" 
[Great laughter and applause J\ I recommend you to be very 
chary of that kind of excellent speech [Renewed laughter]. 

Well, all that sad stuff being the too well-known product of our 
method of vocal education, the teacher merely operating on the 
tongue of the pupil, and teaching him to wag it in a particular 
way [Laughter], it has made various thinking men entertain a 
distrust of this not very salutary way of procedure; and they have 
longed for some less theoretic, and more practical and concrete 
way of working out the problem of education; in effect, for an 
education not vocal at all, but mute except where speaking was 
strictly needful. There would be room for a great deal of de- 
scription about this, if I went into it; but I must content myself 
with saying that the most remarkable piece of writing on it is in a 
book of Goethe's, the whole of which you may be recommended 
to take up, and try if you can study it with understanding. It is 
one of his last books; written when he was an old man above seventy 
years of age: I think, one of the most beautiful he ever wrote; full 



380 THOMAS CARLYLE 

of meek wisdom, of intellect and piety; which is found to be 
strangely illuminative, and very touching, by those who have eyes 
to discern and hearts to feel it. This about education is one of the 
pieces in Wilhelm Meisters Travels; or rather, in a fitful way, it 
forms the whole gist of the book. I first read it many years ago; and, 
of course, I had to read into the very heart of it while I was trans- 
lating it [Applause^ and it has ever since dwelt in my mind as 
perhaps the most remarkable bit of writing which I have known 
to be executed in these late centuries. I have often said that there 
are some ten pages of that, which, if ambition had been my only 
rule, I would rather have written, been able to write, than have 
written all the books that have appeared since I came into the 
world \Cheer s\. Deep, deep is the meaning of what is said there. 
Those pages turn on the Christian religion, and the religious 
phenomena of the modern and the ancient world: altogether 
sketched out in the most aerial, graceful, delicately wise kind of 
way, so as to keep himself out of the common controversies of the 
street and of the forum, yet to indicate what was the result of 
things he had been long meditating upon. 

Among others, he introduces in an airy, sketchy kind of way, 
with here and there a touch, the sum-total of which grows into 
a beautiful picture, a scheme of entirely mute education, at least 
with no more speech than is absolutely necessary for what the 
pupils have to do. Three of the wisest men discoverable in the 
world have been got together, to consider, to manage and super- 
vise, the function which transcends all others in importance, that 
of building up the young generation so as to keep it free from that 
perilous stuff that has been weighing us down, and clogging every 
step; which function, indeed, is the only thing we can hope to go 
on with, if we would leave the world a little better, and not the 
worse, of our having been in it, for those who are to follow. The 
Chief, who is the Eldest of the three, says to Wilhelm: "Healthy 
well-formed children bring into the world with them many precious 
gifts; and very frequently these are best of all developed by Nature 
herself, with but slight assistance, where assistance is seen to be 
wise and profitable, and with forbearance very often on the part 
of the overseer of the process. But there is one thing which no child 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 381 

brings into the world with him, and without which all other things 
are of no use." Wilhelm, who is there beside him, asks, "And what 
is that?" "All want it," says the Eldest; "perhaps you yourself." 
Wilhelm says, "Well, but tell me what it is?" "It is," answers the 
other, "Reverence (Ehrjurcht)\ Reverence!" Honour done to those 
who are greater and better than ourselves; honour distinct from 
fear. Ehrjurcht; the soul of all religion that has ever been among 
men, or ever will be. 

And then he goes into details about the religions of the modem 
and the ancient world. He practically distinguishes the kinds of 
religion that are, or have been, in the world; and says that for men 
there are three reverences. The boys are all trained to go through 
certain gesticulations; to lay their hands on their breasts and look 
up to heaven, in sign of the first reverence; other forms for the 
other two : so they give their three reverences. The first and simplest 
is that of reverence for what is above us. It is the soul of all the 
Pagan religion; there is nothing better in the antique man than that. 
Then there is reverence for what is around us, reverence for our 
equals, to which he attributes an immense power in the culture of 
man. The third is reverence for what is beneath us; to learn to 
recognise in pain, in sorrow and contradiction, even in those things, 
odious to flesh and blood, what divine meanings are in them; to 
learn that there lies in these also, and more than in any of the 
preceding, a priceless blessing. And he defines that as being the 
soul of the Christian religion, the highest of all religions; *a 
height,' as Goethe says (and that is very true, even to the letter, 
as I consider), 'a height to which mankind was fated and enabled 
to attain; and from which, having once attained it, they can never 
retrograde.' Man cannot quite lose that (Goethe thinks), or per- 
manently descend below it again; but always, even in the most 
degraded, sunken and unbelieving times, he calculates there will 
be found some few souls who will recognise what this highest of 
the religions meant; and that, the world having once received it, 
there is no fear of its ever wholly disappearing. 

The eldest then goes on to explain by what methods they seek 
to educate and train their boys; in the trades, in the arts, in the 
sciences, in whatever pursuit the boy is found best fitted for. Beyond 



3 2 THOMAS CARLYLE 

all, they are anxious to discover the boy's aptitudes; and they try 
him and watch him continually, in many wise ways, till by degrees 
they can discover this. Wilhelm had left his own boy there, per- 
haps expecting they would make him a Master of Arts, or something 
of the kind; and on coming back for him, he sees a thunder-cloud 
of dust rushing over the plain, of which he can make nothing. It 
turns out to be a tempest of wild horses, managed by young lads 
who had a turn for horsemanship, for hunting, and being grooms. 
His own son is among them; and he finds that the breaking of colts 
has been the thing he was most suited for [Laughter}. 

The highest outcome, and most precious of all the fruits that are 
to spring from this ideal mode of educating, is what Goethe calls 
Art: of which I could at present give no definition that would 
make it clear to you, unless it were clearer already than is likely 
[A laugh]. Goethe calls it music, painting, poetry: but it is in 
quite a higher sense than the common one; and a sense in which, I 
am afraid, most of our painters, poets and music-men would not 
pass muster [A laugh]. He considers this as the highest pitch to 
which human culture can go; infinitely valuable and ennobling; 
and he watches with great industry how it is to be brought about 
in the men who have a turn for it. Very wise and beautiful his 
notion of the matter is. It gives one an idea that something far 
better and higher, something as high as ever, and indubitably true 
too, is still possible for man in this world. And that is all I can 
say to you of Goethe's fine theorem of mute education. 

I confess it seems to me there is in it a shadow of what will one 
day be; will and must, unless the world is to come to a conclusion 
that is altogether frightful: some kind of scheme of education 
analogous to that; presided over by the wisest and most sacred 
men that can be got in the world, and watching from a distance: a 
training in practicality at every turn; no speech in it except speech 
that is to be followed by action, for that ought to be the rule as 
nearly as possible among men. Not very often or much, rarely 
rather, should a man speak at all, unless it is for the sake of some- 
thing that is to be done; this spoken, let him go and do his part in 
it, and say no more about it. 

I will only add, that it is possible, all this fine theorem of Goethe's, 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 383 

or something similar! Consider what we have already; and what 
'difficulties' we have overcome. I should say there is nothing in 
the world you can conceive so difficult, prim a facie, as that of getting 
a set of men gathered together as soldiers. Rough, rude, ignorant, 
disobedient people; you gather them together, promise them a 
shilling a day; rank them up, give them very severe and sharp drill; 
and by bullying and drilling and compelling (the word drilling, if 
you go to the original, means 'beating,' 'steadily tormenting to the 
due pitch), they do learn what it is necessary to learn; and there 
is your man in red coat, a trained soldier; piece of an animated 
machine incomparably the most potent in this world; a wonder of 
wonders to look at. He will go where bidden; obeys one man, 
will walk into the cannon's mouth for him; does punctually what- 
ever is commanded by his general officer. And, I believe, all manner 
of things of this kind could be accomplished, if there were the 
same attention bestowed. Very many things could be regimented, 
organised into this mute system; and perhaps in some of the 
mechanical, commercial and manufacturing departments some faint 
incipiences may be attempted before very long. For the saving of 
human labour, and the avoidance of human misery, the effects 
would be incalculable, were it set about and begun even in part. 

Alas, it is painful to think how very far away it all is, any real 
fulfilment of such things! For I need not hide from you, young 
Gentlemen, and it is one of the last things I am going to tell you, 
that you have got into a very troublous epoch of the world; and 
I don't think you will find your path in it to be smoother than 
ours has been, though you have many advantages which we had 
not. You have careers open to you, by public examinations and 
so on, which is a thing much to be approved of, and which we 
hope to see perfected more and more. All that was entirely un- 
known in my time, and you have many things to recognise as ad- 
vantages. But you will find the ways of the world, I think, more 
anarchical than ever. Look where one will, revolution has come upon 
us. We have got into the age of revolutions. All kinds of things are 
coming to be subjected to fire, as it were: hotter and hotter blows the 
element round everything. Curious to see how, in Oxford and other 
places that used to seem as lying at anchor in the stream of time, 



384 THOMAS CARLYLE 

regardless of all changes, they are getting into the highest humour 
of mutation, and all sorts of new ideas are afloat. It is evident that 
whatever is not inconsumable, made of asbestos, will have to be 
burnt, in this world. Nothing other will stand the heat it is getting 
exposed to. 

And in saying that, I am but saying in other words that we are 
in an epoch of anarchy. Anarchy plus a constable! [Laughter.] 
There is nobody that picks one's pocket without some policeman 
being ready to take him up [Renewed laughter]. But in every other 
point, man is becoming more and more the son, not of Cosmos, 
but of Chaos. He is a disobedient, discontented, reckless and alto- 
gether waste kind of object (the commonplace man is, in these 
epochs); and the wiser kind of man, the select few, of whom I 
hope you will be part, has more and more to see to this, to look 
vigilantly forward; and will require to move with double wisdom. 
Will find, in short, that the crooked things he has got to pull 
straight in his own life all round him, wherever he may go, are 
manifold, and will task all his strength, however great it be. 

But why should I complain of that either? For that is the thing 
a man is born to, in all epochs. He is born to expend every particle 
of strength that God Almighty has given him, in doing the work 
he finds he is fit for; to stand up to it to the last breath of life, and do 
his best. We are called upon to do that; and the reward we all get, 
which we are perfectly sure of, if we have merited it, is that we 
have got the work done, or at least that we have tried to do the 
work. For that is a great blessing in itself; and I should say, there 
is not very much more reward than that going in this world. If 
the man gets meat and clothes, what matters it whether he buy 
those necessaries with seven thousand a year, or with seven million, 
could that be, or with seventy pounds a year? He can get meat 
and clothes for that; and he will find intrinsically, if he is a wise 
man, wonderfully little real difference [Laughter]. 

On the whole, avoid what is called ambition; that is not a fine 
principle to go upon, and it has in it all degrees of vulgarity, if that 
is a consideration. 'Seekest thou great things, seek them not:' I 
warmly second that advice of the wisest of men. Don't be ambitious; 
don't too much need success; be loyal and modest. Cut down the 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 385 

proud towering thoughts that get into you, or see that they be pure 
as well as high. There is a nobler ambition than the gaining of all 
California would be, or the getting of all the suffrages that are on 
the Planet just now [Loud and prolonged cheers'}. 

Finally, Gentlemen, I have one advice to give you, which is 
practically of very great importance, though a very humble one. In 
the midst of your zeal and ardour, for such, I foresee, will rise 
high enough, in spite of all the counsels to moderate it that I can 
give you, remember the care of health. I have no doubt you have 
among you young souls ardently bent to consider life cheap, for 
the purpose of getting forward in what they are aiming at of high; 
but you are to consider throughout, much more than is done at 
present, and what it would have been a very great thing for me if 
I had been able to consider, that health is a thing to be attended to 
continually; that you are to regard that as the very highest of all 
temporal things for you [Applause]. There is no kind of achieve- 
ment you could make in the world that is equal to perfect health. 
What to it are nuggets and millions? The French financier said, 
"Why, is there no sleep to be sold!" Sleep was not in the market at 
any quotation [Laughter and applause]. 

It is a curious thing, which I remarked long ago, and have often 
turned in my head, that the old word for 'holy' in the Teutonic 
languages, heilig, also means 'healthy.' Thus Heilbronn means 
indifferently 'holy-well' or 'health- well.' We have in the Scotch, 
too, 'hale/ and its derivatives; and, I suppose, our English word 
'whole' (with a 'w'), all of one piece, without any hole in it, is the 
same word. I find that you could not get any better definition of 
what 'holy' really is than 'healthy.' Completely healthy; mens sana 
in corpore sano [Applause]. A man all lucid, and in equilibrium. 
His intellect a clear mirror geometrically plane, brilliantly sensitive 
to all objects and impressions made on it, and imagining all things 
in their correct proportions; not twisted up into convex or concave, 
and distorting everything, so that he cannot see the truth of the 
matter without endless groping and manipulation: healthy, clear 
and free, and discerning truly all round him. We never can attain 
that at all. In fact, the operations we have got into are destructive 
of it. You cannot, if you are going to do any decisive intellectual 



386 THOMAS CARLYLE 

operation that will last a long while; if, for instance, you are going 
to write a book, you cannot manage it (at least, I never could) 
without getting decidedly made ill by it: and really one nevertheless 
must; if it is your business, you are obliged to follow out what you 
are at, and to do it, if even at the expense of health. Only remember, 
at all times, to get back as fast as possible out of it into health; and 
regard that as the real equilibrium and centre of things. You should 
always look at the heilig, which means 'holy' as well as 'healthy.' 

And that old etymology, what a lesson it is against certain 
gloomy, austere, ascetic people, who have gone about as if this 
world were all a dismal prison-house! It has indeed got all the 
ugly things in it which I have been alluding to; but there is an 
eternal sky over it; and the blessed sunshine, the green of prophetic 
spring, and rich harvests coming, all this is in it too. Piety does 
not mean that a man should make a sour face about things, and 
refuse to enjoy wisely what his Maker has given. Neither do you 
find it to have been so with the best sort, with old Knox, in par- 
ticular. No; if you look into Knox, you will find a beautiful Scotch 
humour in him, as well as the grimmest and sternest truth when 
necessary, and a great deal of laughter. We find really some of the 
sunniest glimpses of things come out of Knox that I have seen in 
any man; for instance, in his History of the Reformation, which 
is a book I hope every one of you will read [Applause], a glorious 
old book. 

On the whole, I would bid you stand up to your work, whatever 
it may be, and not be afraid of it; not in sorrows or contradictions 
to yield, but to push on towards the goal. And don't suppose that 
people are hostile to you or have you at ill-will, in the world. In 
general, you will rarely find anybody designedly doing you ill. You 
may feel often as if the whole world were obstructing you, setting 
itself against you : but you will find that to mean only, that the world 
is travelling in a different way from you, and, rushing on in its 
own path, heedlessly treads on you. That is mostly all: to you no 
specific ill-will; only each has an extremely good- will to himself, 
which he has a right to have, and is rushing on towards his object. 
Keep out of literature, I should say also, as a general rule [Laughter], 
though that is by the bye. If you find many people who are hard 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS % 387 

and indifferent to you, in a world which you consider to be inhos- 
pitable and cruel, as often indeed happens to a tender-hearted, 
striving young creature, you will also find there are noble hearts 
who will look kindly on you; and their help will be precious to 
you beyond price. You will get good and evil as you go on, and have 
the success that has been appointed you. 

I will wind-up with a small bit of verse, which is from Goethe 
also, and has often gone through my mind. To me it has some- 
thing of a modern psalm in it, in some measure. It is deep as the 
foundations, deep and high, and it is true and clear: no clearer 
man, or nobler and grander intellect has lived in the world, I 
believe, since Shakespeare left it. This is what the poet sings; a 
kind of road-melody or marching-music of mankind: 

'The future hides in it 
Gladness and sorrow; 
We press still thorow, 
Nought that abides in it 
Daunting us, onward. 

And solemn before us, 
Veiled, the dark Portal; 
Goal of all mortal: 
Stars silent rest o'er us, 
Graves under us silent! 

While earnest thou gazest, 
Comes boding of terror, 
Comes phantasm and error; 
Perplexes the bravest 
With doubt and misgiving. 

But heard are the Voices, 
Heard are the Sages, 
The Worlds and the Ages: 
"Choose well; your choice is 
Brief, and yet endless. 

Here eyes do regard you, 
In Eternity's stillness; 
Here is all fulness, 
Ye brave, to reward you; 
Work, and despair not." ' 



388 THOMAS CARLYLE 

Work, and despair not: Wir heissen euch hoffen, 'We bid you 
be of hope!' let that be my last word. Gentlemen, I thank you for 
your great patience in hearing me; and, with many most kind 
wishes, say Adieu for this time. 

FINIS OF RECTORSHIP. 'Edinburgh University. Mr. Carlyle ex-Lord 
Rector of the University of Edinburgh, has been asked to deliver a 
valedictory address to the students, but has declined. The following is a 
copy of the correspondence. 

'2 S.-W. Circus Place, Edinburgh, 3d December 1868. 

'Sm, On the strength of being Vice-President of the Committee 
for your election as Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh, I 
have been induced to write to you, in order to know if you will 
be able to deliver a Valedictory Address to the Students. Mr. 
Gladstone gave us one, and we fondly hope you will find it con- 
venient to do so as well. Your Inaugural Address is still treasured 
up in our memories, and I am sure nothing could give us greater 
pleasure than once more to listen to your words. I trust you will 
pardon me for this intrusion; and hoping to receive a favourable 
answer, I am, etc., A. ROBERTSON, M. A. 

'T. CARLYLE, ESQ.' 

'Chelsea, pth December 1868. 

'DEAR SIR, I much regret that a Valedictory Speech from me, 
in present circumstances, is a thing I must not think of. Be pleased 
to assure the young Gentlemen who were so friendly towards me, 
that I have already sent them, in silence, but with emotions deep 
enough, perhaps too deep, my loving Farewell, and that ingratitude, 
or want of regard, is by no means among the causes that keep me 
absent. With a fine youthful enthusiasm, beautiful to look upon, 
they bestowed on me that bit of honour, loyally all they had; and 
it has now, for reasons one and another, become touchingly memo- 
rable to me, touchingly, and even grandly and tragically, never 
to be forgotten for the remainder of my life. 

'Bid them, in my name, if they still love me, fight the good fight, 
and quit themselves like men in the warfare, to which they are as 
if conscript and consecrated, and which lies ahead. Tell them to 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS 389 

consult the eternal oracles (not yet inaudible, nor ever to become so, 
when worthily inquired of) : and to disregard, nearly altogether, in 
comparison, the temporary noises, menacings and deliriums. May 
they love Wisdom as Wisdom, if she is to yield her treasures, must 
be loved, piously, valiantly, humbly, beyond life itself or the 
prizes of life, with all one's heart, and all one's soul: in that case 
(I will say again), and not in any other case, it shall be well with 
them. Adieu, my young Friends, a long adieu. Yours with great 
sincerity, T. CARLYLE. 

'A. ROBERTSON, ESQ.' l 

1 Edinburgh Newspapers of December 12-13, 1868. 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 

BY 
THOMAS CARLYLE 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 1 

[.838] 

AERICAN Cooper asserts, in one of his books, that there is 
'an instinctive tendency in men to look at any man who 
has become distinguished.' True, surely: as all observation 
and survey of mankind, from China to Peru, from Nebuchadnezzar 
to Old Hickory, will testify! Why do men crowd towards the 
improved-drop at Newgate, eager to catch a sight? The man about 
to be hanged is in a distinguished situation. Men crowd to such 
extent, that Greenacre's is not the only life choked-out there. Again, 
ask of these leathern vehicles, cabriolets, neat-flies, with blue men 
and women in them, that scour all thoroughfares, Whither so fast ? 
To see dear Mrs. Rigmarole, the distinguished female; great Mr. 
Rigmarole, the distinguished male! Or, consider that crowning 
phenomenon, and summary of modern civilisation, a soiree of lions. 
Glittering are the rooms, well-lighted, thronged; bright flows their 
undulatory flood of blonde-gowns and dress-coats, a soft smile dwell- 
ing on all faces; for behold there also flow the lions, hovering dis- 
tinguished: oracles of the age, of one sort or another. Oracles really 
pleasant to see; whom it is worth while to go and see: look at them, 
but inquire not of them, depart rather and be thankful. For your 
lion-soiree admits not of speech; there lies the specialty of it. A 
meeting together of human creatures; and yet (so high has civil- 
isation gone) the primary aim of human meeting, that soul might 
in some articulate utterance unfold itself to soul, can be dispensed 
with in it. Utterance there is not; nay, there is a certain grinning 
play of tongue-fence, and make-believe of utterance, considerably 
worse than none. For which reason it has been suggested, with an 
eye to sincerity and silence in such lion-soirees. Might not each lion 
be, for example, ticketed, as wine-decanters are? Let him carry> 

1 LONDON AND WESTMINSTER REVIEW, No. 12. Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter 
Scott, Baronet. VoJs. i.-vi. Edinburgh, 1837. 

393 



394 THOMAS CARLYLE 

slung round him, in such ornamental manner as seemed good, 
his silver label with name engraved; you lift his label, and read it, 
with what farther ocular survey you find useful, and speech is not 
needed at all. O Fenimore Cooper, it is most true there is 'an in- 
stinctive tendency in men to look at any man that has become dis- 
tinguished'; and, moreover, an instinctive desire in men to become 
distinguished and be looked at! 

For the rest, we will call it a most valuable tendency this; indis- 
pensable to mankind. Without it, where were star-and-garter, and 
significance of rank; where were all ambition, money-getting, re- 
spectability of gig or no gig; and, in a word, the main impetus by 
which society moves, the main force by which it hangs together? 
A tendency, we say, of manifold results; of manifold origin, not 
ridiculous only, but sublime; which some incline to deduce from 
the mere gregarious purblind nature of man, prompting him to run, 
'as dim-eyed animals do, towards any glittering object, were it but 
a scoured tankard, and mistake it for a solar luminary,' or even 
'sheeplike, to run and crowd because many have already run'! It is 
indeed curious to consider how men do make the gods that them- 
selves worship. For the most famed man, round whom all the world 
rapturously huzzahs and venerates, as if his like were not, is the 
same man whom all the world was wont to jostle into the kennels; 
not a changed man, but in every fibre of him the same man. Foolish 
world, what went ye out to see? A tankard scoured bright: and do 
there not lie, of the self-same pewter, whole barrowf uls of tankards, 
though by worse fortune all still in the dim state? 

And yet, at bottom, it is not merely our gregarious sheeplike 
quality, but something better, and indeed best: which has been called 
'the perpetual fact of hero-worship'; our inborn sincere love of great 
men! Not the gilt farthing, for its own sake, do even fools covet; 
but the gold guinea which they mistake it for. Veneration of great 
men is perennial in the nature of man; this, in all times, especially in 
these, is one of the blessedest facts predicable of him. In all times, 
even in these seemingly so disobedient times, 'it remains a blessed 
fact, so cunningly has Nature ordered it, that whatsoever man ought 
to obey, he cannot but obey. Show the dullest clodpole, show the 
haughtiest featherhead, that a soul higher than himself is actually 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 395 

here; were his knees stiffened into brass, he must down and wor- 
ship.' So it has been written; and may be cited and repeated till 
known to all. Understand it well, this of 'hero-worship' was the 
primary creed, and has intrinsically been the secondary and ternary, 
and will be the ultimate and final creed of mankind; indestructible, 
changing in shape, but in essence unchangeable; whereon polities, 
religions, loyalties, and all highest human interests have been and 
can be built, as on a rock that will endure while man endures. Such 
is hero-worship; so much lies in that our inborn sincere love of 
great men! In favour of which unspeakable benefits of the reality, 
what can we do but cheerfully pardon the multiplex ineptitudes of 
the semblance; cheerfully wish even lion-soirees, with labels for 
their lions or without that improvement, all manner of prosperity ? 
Let hero-worship flourish, say we; and the more and more assiduous 
chase after gilt farthings while guineas are not yet forthcoming. 
Herein, at lowest, is proof that guineas exist, that they are believed 
to exist, and valued. Find great men, if you can; if you cannot, 
still quit not the search; in defect of great men, let there be noted 
men, in such number, to such degree of intensity as the public 
appetite can tolerate. 

Whether Sir Walter Scott was a great man, is still a question 
with some; but there can be no question with any one that he was 
a most noted and even notable man. In this generation there was 
no literary man with such a popularity in any country; there have 
only been a few with such, taking-in all generations and all countries. 
Nay, it is farther to be admitted that Sir Walter Scott's popularity 
was of a select sort rather; not a popularity of the populace. His 
admirers were at one time almost all the intelligent of civilised 
countries; and to the last included, and do still include, a great 
portion of that sort. Such fortune he had, and has continued to 
maintain for a space of some twenty or thirty years. So long the 
observed of all observers; a great man or only a considerable man; 
here surely, if ever, is a singular circumstanced, is a 'distinguished' 
man! In regard to whom, therefore, the 'instinctive tendency' on 
other men's part cannot be wanting. Let men look, where the world 
has already so long looked. And now, while the new, earnestly 



396 THOMAS CARLYLE 

expected Life 'by his son-in-law and literary executor' again sum- 
mons the whole world's attention round him, probably for the last 
time it will ever be so summoned; and men are in some sort taking 
leave of a notability, and about to go their way, and commit him to 
his fortune on the flood of things, why should not this Periodical 
Publication likewise publish its thought about him? Readers of 
miscellaneous aspect, of unknown quantity and quality, are waiting 
to hear it done. With small inward vocation, but cheerfully obedient 
to destiny and necessity, the present reviewer will follow a multitude : 
to do evil or to do no evil, will depend not on the multitude but on 
himself. One thing he did decidedly wish; at least to wait till the 
Work were finished: for the six promised Volumes, as the world 
knows, have flowed over into a Seventh, which will not for some 
weeks yet see the light. But the editorial powers, wearied with 
waiting, have become peremptory; and declare that, finished or not 
finished, they will have their hands washed of it at this opening 
of the year. Perhaps it is best. The physiognomy of Scott will not 
be much altered for us by that Seventh Volume; the prior Six have 
altered it but little; as, indeed, a man who has written some two- 
hundred volumes of his own, and lived for thirty years amid the 
universal speech of friends, must have already left some likeness of 
himself. Be it as the peremptory editorial powers require. 

First, therefore, a word on the Life itself. Mr. Lockhart's known 
powers justify strict requisition in his case. Our verdict in general 
would be, that he has accomplished the work he schemed for him- 
self in a creditable workmanlike manner. It is true, his notion of 
what the work was, does not seem to have been very elevated. To 
picture-forth the life of Scott according to any rules of art or com- 
position, so that a reader, on adequately examining it, might say to 
himself, "There is Scott, there is the physiognomy and meaning of 
Scott's appearance and transit on this earth; such was he by nature, 
so did the world act on him, so he on the world, with such result 
and significance for himself and us": this was by no manner of 
means Mr. Lockhart's plan. A plan which, it is rashly said, should 
preside over every biography! It might have been fulfilled with all 
degrees of perfection, from that of the Odyssey down to Thomas 
Ellwood or lower. For there is no heroic poem in the world but is at 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 397 

bottom a biography, the life of a man : also, it may be said, there is 
no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its 
sort, rhymed or unrhymed. It is a plan one would prefer, did it 
otherwise suit; which it does not, in these days. Seven volumes sell 
so much dearer than one; are so much easier to write than one. The 
Odyssey, for instance, what were the value of the Odyssey sold per 
sheet? One paper of Pict^wic\; or say, the inconsiderable fraction 
of one. This, in commercial algebra, were the equation: Odyssey 
equal to Pic^wicJ^ divided by an unknown integer. 

There is a great discovery still to be made in Literature, that of 
paying literary men by the quantity they do not write. Nay, in 
sober truth, is not this actually the rule in all writing; and, more- 
over, in all conduct and acting? Not what stands above ground, 
but what lies unseen under it, as the root and subterrene element it 
sprang from and emblemed forth, determines the value. Under all 
speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. 
Silence is deep as Eternity: speech is shallow as Time. Paradoxical 
does it seem? Woe for the age, woe for the man, quack-ridden, 
bespeeched, bespouted, blown about like barren Sahara, to whom this 
world-old truth were altogether strange! Such we say is the rule, 
acted on or not, recognised or not; and he who departs from it, what 
can he do but spread himself into breadth and length, into super- 
ficiality and saleability; and, except as filigree, become comparatively 
useless ? One thinks, Had but the hogshead of thin wash, which sours 
in a week ready for the kennels, been distilled, been concentrated! 
Our dear Fenimore Cooper, whom we started with, might, in that 
way, have given us one Natty Leather stocking, one melodious 
synopsis of Man and Nature in the West (for it lay in him to do it), 
almost as a Saint-Pierre did for the Islands of the East; and the 
hundred Incoherences, cobbled hastily together by order of Colburn 
and Company, had slumbered in Chaos, as all incoherences ought if 
possible to do. Verily this same genius of di flu se- writing, of diffuse- 
acting, is a Moloch; and souls pass through the fire to him, more 
than enough. Surely, if ever discovery was valuable and needful, 
it were that above indicated, of paying by the work not visibly done! 
Which needful discovery we will give the whole projecting, rail- 
waying, knowledge-diffusing, march-of-intellect and otherwise pro- 



THOMAS CARLYLE 

motive and locomotive societies in the Old and New World, any 
required length of centuries to make. Once made, such discovery 
once made, we too will fling cap into the air, and shout, "lo Pecan! 
the Devil is conquered"; and, in the mean while, study to think it 
nothing miraculous that seven biographical volumes are given 
where one had been better; and that several other things happen, 
very much as they from of old were known to do, and are like to 
continue doing. 

Mr. Lockhart's aim, we take it, was not that of producing any 
such highflown work of art as we hint at: or indeed to do much 
other than to print, intelligently bound together by order of time, 
and by some requisite intercalary exposition, all such letters, docu- 
ments and notices about Scott as he found lying suitable, and as it 
seemed likely the world would undertake to read. His Work, accord- 
ingly, is not so much a composition, as what we may call a com- 
pilation well done. Neither is this a task of no difficulty; this too 
is a task that may be performed with extremely various degrees 
of talent: from the Life and Correspondence of Hannah More, for 
instance, up to this Life of Scott, there is a wide range indeed! Let 
us take the Seven Volumes, and be thankful that they are genuine 
in their kind. Nay, as to that of their being seven and not one, it 
is right to say that the public so required it. To have done other, 
would have shown little policy in an author. Had Mr. Lockhart 
laboriously compressed himself, and instead of well-done com- 
pilation, brought out the well-done composition, in one volume 
instead of seven, which not many men in England are better quali- 
fied to do, there can be no doubt but his readers for the time had 
been immeasurably fewer. If the praise of magnanimity be denied 
him, that of prudence must be conceded, which perhaps he values 
more. 

The truth is, the work, done in this manner too, was good to 
have: Scott's Biography, if uncomposed, lies printed and inde- 
structible here, in the elementary state, and can at any time be com- 
posed, if necessary, by whosoever has a call to that. As it is, as it 
was meant to be, we repeat, the work is vigorously done. Sagacity, 
decision, candour, diligence, good manners, good sense: these quali- 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 399 

ties are throughout observable. The dates, calculations, statements, 
we suppose to be all accurate; much laborious inquiry, some of it 
impossible for another man, has been gone into, the results of which 
are imparted with due brevity. Scott's letters, not interesting gen- 
erally, yet never absolutely without interest, are copiously given; 
copiously, but with selection; the answers to them still more select. 
Narrative, delineation, and at length personal reminiscences, occa- 
sionally of much merit, of a certain rough force, sincerity and pic- 
turesqueness, duly intervene. The scattered members of Scott's 
Life do lie here, and could be disentangled. In a word, this com- 
pilation is the work of a manful, clear-seeing, conclusive man, and 
has been executed with the faculty and combination of faculties the 
public had a right to expect from the name attached to it. 

One thing we hear greatly blamed in Mr. Lockhart: that he has 
been too communicative, indiscreet, and has recorded much that 
ought to have lain suppressed. Persons are mentioned, and circum- 
stances, not always of an ornamental sort. It would appear there is 
far less reticence than was looked for! Various persons, name and 
surname, have 'received pain' : nay, the very Hero of the Biography 
is rendered unheroic; unornamental facts of him, and of those he 
had to do with, being set forth in plain English : hence 'personality,' 
'indiscretion,' or worse, 'sanctities of private life,' etc., etc. How 
delicate, decent is English Biography, bless its mealy mouth! A 
Damocles' sword of Respectability hangs forever over the poor Eng- 
lish Life-writer (as it does over poor English Life in general), and 
reduces him to the verge of paralysis. Thus it has been said 'there 
are no English lives worth reading except those of Players, who 
by the nature of the case have bidden Respectability good-day.' The 
English biographer has long felt that if in writing his Man's Biog- 
raphy, he wrote down anything that could by possibility offend any 
man, he had written wrong. The plain consequence was, that, 
properly speaking, no biography whatever could be produced. The 
poor biographer, having the fear not of God before his eyes, was 
obliged, to retire as it were into vacuum; and write in the most 
melancholy, straitened manner, with only vacuum for a result. Vain 
that he wrote, and that we kept reading volume on volume: there 



4OO THOMAS CARLYLE 

was no biography, but some vague ghost of a biography, white, 
stainless; without feature or substance; vacuum, as we say, and wind 
and shadow, which indeed the material of it was. 

No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he 
has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence. 
His life is a battle, in so far as it is an entity at all. The very 
oyster, we suppose, comes in collision with oysters: undoubtedly 
enough it does come in collision with Necessity and Difficulty; 
and helps itself through, not as a perfect ideal oyster, but as an 
imperfect real one. Some kind of remorse must be known to the 
oyster; certain hatreds, certain pusillanimities. But as for man, his 
conflict is continual with the spirit of contradiction, that is without 
and within; with the evil spirit (or call it, with the weak, most neces- 
sitous, pitiable spirit), that is in others and in himself. His walk, 
like all walking (say the mechanicians), is a series of falls. To 
paint man's life is to represent these things. Let them be represented, 
fitly, with dignity and measure; but above all, let them be repre- 
sented. No tragedy of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted 
by particular desire! No ghost of a biography, let the Damocles' 
sword of Respectability (which, after all, is but a pasteboard one) 
threaten as it will. One hopes that the public taste is much mended 
in this matter; that vacuum-biographies, with a good many other 
vacuities related to them, are withdrawn or withdrawing into 
vacuum. Probably it was Mr. Lockhart's feeling of what the great 
public would approve, that led him, open-eyed, into this offence 
against the small criticising public: we joyfully accept the omen. 

Perhaps then, of all the praises copiously bestowed on his Work, 
there is none in reality so creditable to him as this same censure, 
which has also been pretty copious. It is a censure better than a good 
many praises. He is found guilty of having said this and that, cal- 
culated not to be entirely pleasant to this man and that; in other 
words, calculated to give him and the thing he worked in a living 
set of features, not leave him vague, in the white beatified-ghost 
condition. Several men, as we hear, cry out, "See, there is some- 
thing written not entirely pleasant to me!" Good friend, it is pity; 
but who can help it? They that will crowd about bonfires may, 
sometimes very fairly, get their beards singed; it is the price they 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 40! 

pay for such illumination; natural twilight is safe and free to all. 
For our part, we hope all manner of biographies that are written 
in England will henceforth be written so. If it is fit that they be 
written otherwise, then it is still fitter that they be not written at 
all : to produce not things but ghosts of things can never be the duty 
of man. 

The biographer has this problem set before him: to delineate a 
likeness of the earthly pilgrimage of a man. He will compute well 
what profit is in it, and what disprofit; under which latter head 
this of offending any of his fellow-creatures will surely not be for- 
gotten. Nay, this may so swell the disprofit side of his account, 
that many an enterprise of biography, otherwise promising, shall 
require to be renounced. But once taken up, the rule before all 
rules is to do it, not to do the ghost of it. In speaking of the man 
and men he has to deal with, he will of course keep all his charities 
about him; but all his eyes open. Far be it from him to set down 
aught untrue; nay, not to abstain from, and leave in oblivion much 
that is true. But having found a thing or things essential for his 
subject, and well computed the for and against, he will in very 
deed set down such thing or things, nothing doubting, having, 
we may say, the fear of God before his eyes, and no other fear 
whatever. Censure the biographer's prudence; dissent from the 
computation he made, or agree with it; be all malice of his, be all 
falsehood, nay, be all offensive avoidable inaccuracy, condemned and 
consumed; but know that by this plan only, executed as was possible, 
could the biographer hope to make a biography; and blame him 
not that he did what it had been the worst fault not to do. 

As to the accuracy or error of these statements about the Ballan- 
tynes and other persons aggrieved, which are questions much mooted 
at present in some places, we know nothing at all. If they are inac- 
curate, let them be corrected; if the inaccuracy was avoidable, let 
the author bear rebuke and punishment for it. We can only say, 
these things carry no look of inaccuracy on the face of them; neither 
is anywhere the smallest trace of ill-will or unjust feeling discernible. 
Decidedly the probabilities are, and till better evidence arise, the 
fair conclusion is, that this matter stands very much as it ought to 
do. Let the clatter of censure, therefore, propagate itself as far as 



402 THOMAS CARLYLE 

it can. For Mr. Lockhart it virtually amounts to this very consid- 
erable praise, that, standing full in the face of the public, he has 
set at naught, and been among the first to do it, a public piece of 
cant; one of the commonest we have, and closely allied to many 
others of the fellest sort, as smooth as it looks. 

The other censure, of Scott being made unheroic, springs from 
the same stem; and is, perhaps, a still more wonderful flower of it. 
Your true hero must have no features, but be white, stainless, an 
impersonal ghost-hero! But connected with this, there is a hypothe- 
sis now current, due probably to some man of name, for its own 
force would not carry it far: That Mr. Lockhart at heart has a 
dislike to Scott, and has done his best in an underhand treacherous 
manner to dishero him! Such hypothesis is actually current: he 
that has ears may hear it now and then. On which astonishing 
hypothesis, if a word must be said, it can only be an apology for 
silence, "That there are things at which one stands struck silent, 
as at first sight of the Infinite." For if Mr. Lockhart is fairly charge- 
able with any radical defect, if on any side his insight entirely fails 
him, it seems even to be in this: that Scott is altogether lovely to him; 
that Scott's greatness spreads out for him on all hands beyond reach 
of eye; that his very faults become beautiful, his vulgar worldli- 
nesses are solid prudences, proprieties; and of his worth there is no 
measure. Does not the patient Biographer dwell on his Abbots, 
Pirates, and hasty theatrical scene-paintings; affectionately analysing 
them, as if they were Raphael-pictures, time-defying Hamlets, 
Othellos? The Novel-manufactory, with its 15,0007. a-year, is sacred 
to him as creation of a genius, which carries the noble victor up to 
Heaven. Scott is to Lockhart the unparalleled of the time; an object 
spreading-out before him like a sea without shore. Of that aston- 
ishing hypothesis, let expressive silence be the only answer. 

And so in sum, with regard to Locfyart's Life of Scott, readers 
that believe in us shall read it with the feeling that a man of talent, 
decision and insight wrote it; wrote it in seven volumes, not in one, 
because the public would pay for it better in that state; but wrote 
it with courage, with frankness, sincerity; on the whole, in a very 
readable, recommendable manner, as things go. Whosoever needs 
it can purchase it, or purchase the loan of it, with assurance more 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 403 

than usual that he has ware for his money. And now enough of 
the written Life; we will glance a little at the man and his acted 
life. 

Into the question whether Scott was a great man or not, we do not 
propose to enter deeply. It is, as too usual, a question about words. 
There can be no doubt but many men have been named and printed 
great who were vastly smaller than he : as little doubt moreover that 
of the specially good, a very large portion, according to any genuine 
standard of man's worth, were worthless in comparison to him. 
He for whom Scott is great may most innocently name him so; 
may with advantage admire his great qualities, and ought with 
sincere heart to emulate them. At the same time, it is good that 
there be a certain degree of precision in our epithets. It is good 
to understand, for one thing, that no popularity, and open-mouthed 
wonder of all the world, continued even for a long series of years, 
can make a man great. Such popularity is a remarkable fortune; 
indicates a great adaptation of the man to his element of circum- 
stances; but may or may not indicate anything great in the man. 
To our imagination, as above hinted, there is a certain apotheosis 
in it; but in the reality no apotheosis at all. Popularity is as a blaze 
of illumination, or alas, of conflagration, kindled round a man; 
showing what is in him; not putting the smallest item more into 
him; often abstracting much from him; conflagrating the poor man 
himself into ashes and caput mortuum! And then, by the nature 
of it, such popularity is transient; your 'series of years/ quite unex- 
pectedly, sometimes almost all on a sudden, terminates! For the 
stupidity of men, especially of men congregated in masses round 
any object, is extreme. What illuminations and conflagrations have 
kindled themselves, as if new heavenly suns had risen, which proved 
only to be tar-barrels and terrestrial locks of straw! Profane Prin- 
cesses cried out, "One God, one Farinelli!" and whither now have 
they and Farinelli danced? 

In Literature too there have been seen popularities greater even than 
Scott's, and nothing perennial in the interior of them. Lope de Vega, 
whom all the world swore by, and made a proverb of; who could 
make an acceptable five-act tragedy in almost as many hours; the 



404 THOMAS CARLYLE 

greatest of all popularities past or present, and perhaps one o the 
greatest men that ever ranked among popularities. Lope himself, so 
radiant, far-shining, has not proved to be a sun or star of the firma- 
ment; but is as good as lost and gone out; or plays at best in the 
eyes of some few as a vague aurora-borealis, and brilliant ineffec- 
tuality. The great man of Spain sat obscure at the time, all dark 
and poor, a maimed soldier; writing his Don Quixote in prison. 
And Lope's fate withal was sad, his popularity perhaps a curse to 
him; for in this man there was something ethereal too, a divine 
particle traceable in few other popular men; and such far-shining 
diffusion of himself, though all the world swore by it, would do 
nothing for the true life of him even while he lived : he had to creep 
into a convent, into a monk's cowl, and learn, with infinite sorrow, 
that his blessedness had lain elsewhere; that when a man's life feels 
itself to be sick and an error, no voting of bystanders can make it 
well and a truth again. 

Or coming down to our own times, was not August Kotzebue 
popular ? Kotzebue, not so many years since, saw himself, if rumour 
and hand-clapping could be credited, the greatest man going; saw 
visibly his Thoughts, dressed-out in plush and pasteboard, per- 
meating and perambulating civilised Europe; the most iron visages 
weeping with him, in all theatres from Cadiz to Kamtchatka; his 
own 'astonishing genius' meanwhile producing two tragedies or so 
per month: he, on the whole, blazed high enough: he too has gone 
out into Night and Orcus, and already is not. We will omit this 
of popularity altogether; and account it as making simply nothing 
towards Scott's greatness or non-greatness, as an accident, not a 
quality. 

Shorn of this falsifying nimbus, and reduced to his own natural 
dimensions, there remains the reality, Walter Scott, and what we 
can find in him: to be accounted great, or not great, according to 
the dialects of men. Friends to precision of epithet will probably 
deny his title to the name 'great.' It seems to us there goes other 
stuff to the making of great men than can be detected here. One 
knows not what idea worthy of the name of great, what purpose, 
instinct or tendency, that could be called great, Scott ever was 
inspired with. His life was worldly; his ambitions were worldly. 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 405 

There is nothing spiritual in him; all is economical, material, of 
the earth earthy. A love of picturesque, of beautiful, vigorous and 
graceful things; a genuine love, yet not more genuine than has 
dwelt in hundreds of men named minor poets: this is the highest 
quality to be discerned in him. 

His power of representing these things, too, his poetic power, like 
his moral power, was a genius in extenso, as we may say, not in 
intenso. In action, in speculation, broad as he was, he rose nowhere 
high; productive without measure as to quantity, in quality he for 
the most part transcended but a little way the region of common- 
place. It has been said, 'no man has written as many volumes with 
so few sentences that can be quoted.' Winged words were not his 
vocation; nothing urged him that way: the great Mystery of Ex- 
istence was not great to him; did not drive him into rocky solitudes 
to wrestle with it for an answer, to be answered or to perish. He 
had nothing of the martyr; into no 'dark region to slay monsters 
for us,' did he, either led or driven, venture down: his conquests 
were for his own behoof mainly, conquests over common market- 
labour, and reckonable in good metallic coin of the realm. The 
thing he had faith in, except power, power of what sort soever, and 
even of the rudest sort, would be difficult to point out. One sees 
not that he believed in anything; nay, he did not even disbelieve; 
but quietly acquiesced, and made himself at home in a world of 
conventionalities; the false, the semi-false and the true were alike 
true in this, that they were there, and had power in their hands more 
or less. It was well to feel so; and yet not well! We find it written, 
'Woe to them that are at ease in Zion'; but surely it is a double 
woe to them that are at ease in Babel, in Domdaniel. On the other 
hand, he wrote many volumes, amusing many thousands of men. 
Shall we call this great? It seems to us there dwells and struggles 
another sort of spirit in the inward parts of great men! 

Brother Ringletub, the missionary, inquired of Ram-Dass, a Hin- 
doo man-god, who had set up for godhood lately, What he meant 
to do, then, with the sins of mankind? To which Ram-Dass at 
once answered, He had fire enough in his belly to burn-up all the 
sins in the world. Ram-Dass was right so far, and had a spice of 
sense in him; for surely it is the test of every divine man this same. 



THOMAS CARLYLE 

and without it he is not divine or great, that he have fire in him 
to burn-up somewhat of the sins of the world, of the miseries and 
errors of the world: why else is he there? Far be it from us to 
say that a great man must needs, with benevolence prepense, become 
a 'friend of humanity'; nay, that such professional self-conscious 
friends of humanity are not the fatalest kind of persons to be met 
with in our day. All greatness is unconscious, or it is little and 
nought. And yet a great man without such fire in him, burning 
dim or developed, as a divine behest in his heart of hearts, never 
resting till it be fulfilled, were a solecism in Nature. A great man 
is ever, as the Transcendentalists speak, possessed with an idea. 

Napoleon himself, not the superfinest of great men, and ballasted 
sufficiently with prudences and egoisms, had nevertheless, as is 
clear enough, an idea to start with : the idea that Democracy was the 
Cause of Man, the right and infinite Cause. Accordingly he made 
himself 'the armed Soldier of Democracy'; and did vindicate it in 
a rather great manner. Nay, to the very last, he had a kind of idea; 
that, namely, of 'La carriere ouverte aux talens, The tools to him that 
can handle them'; really one of the best ideas yet promulgated on 
that matter, or rather the one true central idea, towards which all 
the others, if they tend anywhither, must tend. Unhappily it was in 
the military province only that Napoleon could realise this idea of 
his, being forced to fight for himself the while: before he got it 
tried to any extent in the civil province of things, his head by much 
victory grew light (no head can stand more than its quantity) ; and 
he lost head, as they say, and became a selfish ambitionist and quack, 
and was hurled out; leaving his idea to be realised, in the civil prov- 
ince of things, by others! Thus was Napoleon; thus are all great 
men: children of the idea; or, in Ram-Dass's phraseology, furnished 
with fire to burn-up the miseries of men. Conscious or unconscious, 
latent or unfolded, there is small vestige of any such fire being extant 
in the inner-man of Scott. 

Yet on the other hand, the surliest critic must allow that Scott was 
a genuine man, which itself is a great matter. No affectation, fan- 
tasticality or distortion dwelt in him; no shadow of cant. Nay, 
withal, was he not a right brave and strong man, according to his 
kind? What a load of toil, what a measure of felicity, he quietly 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 407 

bore along with him; with what quiet strength he both worked on 
this earth, and enjoyed in it; invincible to evil fortune and to good! 
A most composed, invincible man; in difficulty and distress knowing 
no discouragement, Samson-like carrying off on his strong Samson- 
shoulders the gates that would imprison him : in danger and menace 
laughing at the whisper of fear. And then, with such a sunny cur- 
rent of true humour and humanity, a free joyful sympathy with so 
many things; what of fire he had all lying so beautifully latent, as 
radical latent heat, as fruitful internal warmth of life; a most robust, 
healthy man! The truth is, our best definition of Scott were perhaps 
even this, that he was, if no great man, then something much pleas- 
anter to be, a robust, thoroughly healthy and withal very prosperous 
and victorious man. An eminently well-conditioned man, healthy 
in body, healthy in soul; we will call him one of the healthiest 
of men. 

Neither is this a small matter: health is a great matter, both to 
the possessor of it and to others. On the whole, that humorist in the 
Moral Essay was not so far out, who determined on honouring 
health only; and so instead of humbling himself to the high-born, 
to the rich and well-dressed, insisted on doffing hat to the healthy: 
coroneted carriages with pale faces in them passed by as failures, 
miserable and lamentable; trucks with ruddy-cheeked strength drag- 
ging at them were greeted as successful and venerable. For does 
not health mean harmony, the synonym of all that is true, justly- 
ordered, good; is it not, in some sense, the net-total, as shown by 
experiment, of whatever worth is in us? The healthy man is the 
most meritorious product of Nature so far as he goes. A healthy 
body is good; but a soul in right health, it is the thing beyond 
all others to be prayed for; the blessedest thing this earth receives 
of Heaven. Without artificial medicament of philosophy, or tight- 
lacing of creeds (always very questionable), the healthy soul discerns 
what is good, and adheres to it, and retains it; discerns what is bad, 
and spontaneously casts it off. An instinct from Nature herself, like 
that which guides the wild animals of the forest to their food, shows 
him what he shall do, what he shall abstain from. The false and 
foreign will not adhere to him; cant and all fantastic diseased in- 
crustations are impossible; as Walker the Original, in such emi- 



408 THOMAS CARLYLE 

nence of health was he for his part, could not, by much abstinence 
from soap-and- water, attain to a dirty face! This thing thou canst 
work with and profit by, this thing is substantial and worthy; that 
other thing thou canst not work with, it is trivial and inapt: so 
speaks unerringly the inward monition of the man's whole nature. 
No need of logic to prove the most argumentative absurdity absurd; 
as Goethe says of himself, 'all this ran down from me like water 
from a man in wax-cloth dress.' Blessed is the healthy nature; it is 
the coherent, sweetly cooperative, not incoherent, self-distracting, 
self-destructive one! In the harmonious adjustment and play of all 
the faculties, the just balance of oneself gives a just feeling towards 
all men and all things. Glad light from within radiates outwards, 
and enlightens and embellishes. 

Now all this can be predicated of Walter Scott, and of no British 
literary man that we remember in these days, to any such extent, 
if it be not perhaps of one, the most opposite imaginable to Scott, 
but his equal in this quality and what holds of it: William Cobbett! 
Nay, there are other similarities, widely different as they two look; 
nor be the comparison disparaging to Scott: for Cobbett also, as the 
pattern John Bull of his century, strong as the rhinoceros, and with 
singular humanities and genialities shining through his thick skin, is 
a most brave phenomenon. So bounteous was Nature to us; in the 
sickliest of recorded ages, when British Literature lay all puking 
and sprawling in Werterism, Byronism, and other Sentimentalism 
tearful or spasmodic (fruit of internal wind). Nature was kind 
enough to send us two healthy Men, of whom she might still say, 
not without pride, "These also were made in England; such limbs 
do I still make there!" It is one of the cheerfulest sights, let the 
question of its greatness be settled as you will. A healthy nature 
may or may not be great; but there is no great nature that is not 
healthy. 

Or, on the whole, might we not say, Scott, in the new vesture of 
the nineteenth century, was intrinsically very much the old fighting 
Borderer of prior centuries; the kind of man Nature did of old make 
in that birthland of his? In the saddle, with the foray-spear, he 
would have acquitted himself as he did at the desk with his pen. 
One fancies how, in stout Bear die of Harden's time, he could hav* 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 409 

played Beardie's part; and been the stalwart buff-belted terrce filins 
he in this late time could only delight to draw. The same stout self- 
help was in him; the same oak and triple brass round his heart. He 
too could have fought at Redswire, cracking crowns with the fierc- 
est, if that had been the task; could have harried cattle in Tynedale, 
repaying injury with compound interest; a right sufficient captain of 
men. A man without qualms or fantasticalities; a hard-headed, 
sound-hearted man, of joyous robust temper, looking to the main 
chance, and fighting direct thitherward; valde stalwartus homo! 
How much in that case had slumbered in him, and passed away 
without sign! But indeed who knows how much slumbers in many 
men? Perhaps our greatest poets are the mute Miltons; the vocals 
are those whom by happy accident we lay hold of, one here, one 
there, as it chances, and ma%e vocal. It is even a question, whether, 
had not want, discomfort and distress-warrants been busy at Strat- 
ford-on-Avon, Shakspeare himself had not lived killing calves or 
combing wool! Had the Edial Boarding-school turned out well, we 
had never heard of Samuel Johnson; Samuel Johnson had been a 
fat schoolmaster and dogmatic gerundgrinder, and never known 
that he was more. Nature is rich: those two eggs thou art eating 
carelessly to breakfast, could they not have been hatched into a pair 
of fowls, and have covered the whole world with poultry? 

But it was not harrying of cattle in Tynedale, or cracking of 
crowns at Redswire, that this stout Border-chief was appointed to 
perform. Far other work. To be the song-singer and pleasant tale- 
teller to Britain and Europe, in the beginning of the artificial nine- 
teenth century; here, and not there, lay his business. Beardie of 
Harden would have found it very amazing. How he shapes himself 
to this new element; how he helps himself along in it, makes it to do 
for him, lives sound and victorious in it, and leads over the marches 
such a spoil as all the cattle-droves the Hardens ever took were poor 
in comparison to; this is the history of the life and achievements 
of our Sir Walter Scott, Baronet; whereat we are now to glance 
for a little! It is a thing remarkable; a thing substantial; of joyful, 
victorious sort; not unworthy to be glanced at. Withal, however, a 
glance here and there will suffice. Our limits are narrow; the thing, 
were it never so victorious, is not of the sublime sort, nor extremely 



410 THOMAS CARLYLE 

edifying; there is nothing in it to censure vehemently, nor love ve- 
hemently; there is more to wonder at than admire; and the whole 
secret is not an abstruse one. 

Till towards the age of thirty, Scott's life has nothing in it de- 
cisively pointing towards Literature, or indeed towards distinction 
of any kind; he is wedded, settled, and has gone through all his 
preliminary steps, without symptom of renown as yet. It is the life 
of every other Edinburgh youth of his station and time. Fortunate 
we must name it, in many ways. Parents in easy or wealthy circum- 
stances, yet unencumbered with the cares and perversions of aristoc- 
racy; nothing eminent in place, in faculty or culture, yet nothing 
deficient; all around is methodic regulation, prudence, prosperity, 
kindheartedness; an element of warmth and light, of affection, in- 
dustry, and burgherly comfort, heightened into elegance; in which 
the young heart can wholesomely grow. A vigorous health seems 
to have been given by Nature; yet, as if Nature had said withal, 
"Let it be a health to express itself by mind, not by body," a lame- 
ness is added in childhood; the brave little boy, instead of romping 
and bickering, must learn to think; or at lowest, what is a great 
matter, to sit still. No rackets and trundling-hoops for this young 
Walter; but ballads, history-books and a world of legendary stuff, 
which his mother and those near him are copiously able to furnish. 
Disease, which is but superficial, and issues in outward lameness, 
does not cloud the young existence; rather forwards it towards the 
expansion it is fitted for. The miserable disease had been one 
of the internal nobler parts, marring the general organisation; under 
which no Walter Scott could have been forwarded, or with all his 
other endowments could have been producible or possible. 'Nature 
gives healthy children much; how much! Wise education is a wise 
unfolding of this; often it unfolds itself better of its own accord.' 

Add one other circumstance: the place where; namely, Presbyte- 
rian Scotland. The influences of this are felt incessantly, they stream- 
in at every pore. 'There is a country accent,' says La Rochefoucauld, 
'not in speech only, but in thought, conduct, character and manner 
of existing, which never forsakes a man.' Scott, we believe, was all 
his days an Episcopalian Dissenter in Scotland; but that makes little 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 411 

to the matter. Nobody who knows Scotland and Scott can doubt 
but Presbyterianism too had a vast share in the forming of him. A 
country where the entire people is, or even once has been, laid hold 
of, filled to the heart with an infinite religious idea, has 'made a 
step from which it cannot retrograde.' Thought, conscience, the 
sense that man is denizen of a Universe, creature of an Eternity, 
has penetrated to the remotest cottage, to the simplest heart. Beauti- 
ful and awful, the feeling of a Heavenly Behest, of Duty god-com- 
manded, over-canopies all life. There is an inspiration in such a 
people: one may say in a more special sense, 'the inspiration of the 
Almighty giveth them understanding.' Honour to all the brave and 
true; everlasting honour to brave old Knox, one of the truest of the 
true! That, in the moment while he and his cause, amid civil broils, 
in convulsion and confusion, were still but struggling for life, he 
sent the schoolmaster forth to all corners, and said, "Let the people 
be taught"; this is but one, and indeed an inevitable and compara- 
tively inconsiderable item in his great message to men. His message, 
in its true compass, was, "Let men know that they are men; created 
by God, responsible to God; who work in any meanest moment of 
time what will last throughout eternity." It is verily a great message. 
Not ploughing and hammering machines, not patent-digesters 
(never so ornamental) to digest the produce of these: no, in no wise; 
born slaves neither of their fellow-men, nor of their own appetites; 
but men! This great message Knox did deliver, with a man's voice 
and strength; and found a people to believe him. 

Of such an achievement, we say, were it to be made once only, the 
results are immense. Thought, in such a country, may change its 
form, but cannot go out; the country has attained majority; thought, 
and a certain spiritual manhood, ready for all work that man can 
do, endures there. It may take many forms : the form of hard-fisted 
money-getting industry, as in the vulgar Scotchman, in the vulgar 
New Englander; but as compact developed force and alertness of 
faculty, it is still there; it may utter itself one day as the colossal 
Scepticism of a Hume (beneficent this too though painful, wrestling 
Titan-like through doubt and inquiry towards new belief); and 
again, some better day, it may utter itself as the inspired Melody 
of a Burns: in a word, it is there, and continues to manifest itself, 



412 THOMAS CARLYLE 

in the Voice and the Work of a Nation of hardy endeavouring con- 
sidering men, with whatever that may bear in it, or unfold from it. 
The Scotch national character originates in many circumstances; 
first of all, in the Saxon stufl there was to work on; but next, and 
beyond all else except that, in the Presbyterian Gospel of John Knox. 
It seems a good national character; and on some sides not so good. 
Let Scott thank John Knox, for he owed him much, little as he 
dreamed of debt in that quarter! No Scotchman of his time was 
more entirely Scotch than Walter Scott: the good and the not so 
good, which all Scotchmen inherit, ran through every fibre of him. 

Scott's childhood, school-days, college-days, are pleasant to read 
of, though they differ not from those of others in his place and 
time. The memory of him may probably enough last till this record 
of them become far more curious than it now is. "So lived an Edin- 
burgh Writer to the Signet's son in the end of the eighteenth cen- 
tury," may some future Scotch novelist say to himself in the end 
of the twenty-first! The following little fragment of infancy is all 
we can extract. It is from an Autobiography which he had begun, 
which one cannot but regret he did not finish. Scott's best qualities 
never shone out more freely than when he went upon anecdote and 
reminiscence. Such a master of narrative and of himself could have 
done personal narrative well. Here, if anywhere, his knowledge 
was complete, and all his humour and good-humour had free scope : 

'An odd incident is worth recording. It seems, my mother had sent a 
maid to take charge of me, at this farm of Sandy-Knowe, that I might 
be no inconvenience to the family. But the damsel sent on that impor- 
tant mission had left her heart behind her, in the keeping of some wild 
fellow, it is likely, who had done and said more to her than he was like 
to make good. She became extremely desirous to return to Edinburgh; 
and, as my mother made a point of her remaining where she was, she 
contracted a sort of hatred at poor me, as the cause of her being detained 
at Sandy-Knowe. This rose, I suppose, to a sort of delirious affection; 
for she confessed to old Alison Wilson, the housekeeper, that she had 
carried me up to the craigs under a strong temptation of the Devil to 
cut my throat with her scissors, and bury me in the moss. Alison 
instantly took possession of my person, and took care that her confidant 
should not be subject to any farther temptation, at least so far as I was 
concerned. She was dismissed of course, and I have heard afterwards 
became a lunatic. 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 413 

'It is here, at Sandy-Knowe, in the residence of my paternal grand- 
father, already mentioned, that I have the first consciousness of exist- 
ence; and I recollect distinctly that my situation and appearance were a 
little whimsical. Among the odd remedies recurred to, to aid my lame- 
ness, some one had recommended that so often as a sheep was killed for 
the use of the family, I should be stripped, and swathed-up in the skin 
warm as it was flayed from the carcass of the animal. In this Tartar-like 
habiliment I well remember lying upon the floor of the little parlour in 
the farmhouse, while my grandfather, a venerable old man with white 
hair, used every excitement to make me try to crawl. I also distinctly 
remember the late Sir George M'Dougal of Mackerstown, father of the 
present Sir Henry Hay M'Dougal, joining in the attempt. He was, God 
knows how, a relation of ours; and I still recollect him, in his old- 
fashioned military habit (he had been Colonel of the Greys), with a 
small cocked-hat deeply laced, an embroidered scarlet waistcoat, and a 
light-coloured coat, with milk-white locks tied in a military fashion, 
kneeling on the ground before me, and dragging his watch along the 
carpet to induce me to follow it. The benevolent old soldier, and the 
infant wrapped in his sheepskin, would have afforded an odd group to 
uninterested spectators. This must have happened about my third year 
(1774), for Sir George M'Dougal and my grandfather both died shortly 
after that period.' 2 

We will glance next into the 'Liddesdale Raids.' Scott has grown- 
up to be a brisk-hearted jovial young man and Advocate: in vacation- 
time he makes excursions to the Highlands, to the Border Cheviots 
and Northumberland; rides free and far, on his stout galloway, 
through bog and brake, over the dim moory Debatable Land, over 
Flodden and other fields and places, where, though he yet knew it 
not, his work lay. No land, however dim and moory, but either has 
had or will have its poet, and so become not unknown in song. 
Liddesdale, which was once as prosaic as most dales, having now 
attained illustration, let us glance thitherward: Liddesdale too is 
on this ancient Earth of ours, under this eternal Sky; and gives and 
takes, in the most incalculable manner, with the Universe at large! 
Scott's experiences there are rather of the rustic Arcadian sort; the 
element of whisky not wanting. We should premise that here and 
there a feature has, perhaps, been aggravated for effect's sake: 

'During seven successive years,' writes Mr. Lockhart (for the Auto- 
biography has long since left us), 'Scott made a raid, as he called it, into 

2 Vol. i. pp. 15-17. 



THOMAS CARLYLE 

Liddesdale with Mr. Shortreed, sheriff-substitute of Roxburgh, for his 
guide; exploring every rivulet to its source, and every ruined peel from 
foundation to battlement. At this time no wheeled carriage had ever been 
seen in the district; the first, indeed, was a gig, driven by Scott himself 
for a part of his way, when on the last of these seven excursions. There 
was no inn nor publichouse of any kind in the whole valley; the travellers 
passed from the shepherd's hut to the minister's manse, and again from 
the cheerful hospitality of the manse to the rough and jolly welcome of 
the homestead; gathering, wherever they went, songs and tunes, and 
occasionally more tangible relics of antiquity, even such a "rowth of auld 
knicknackets" as Burns ascribes to Captain Grose. To these rambles 
Scott owed much of the materials of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; 
and not less of that intimate acquaintance with the living manners of 
these unsophisticated regions, which constitutes the chief charm of one 
of the most charming of his prose works. But how soon he had any 
definite object before him in his researches seems very doubtful. "He was 
mafyn himsell a' the time," said Mr. Shortreed; "but he didna ken 
maybe what he was about till years had passed: at first he thought o' 
little, I daresay, but the queerness and the fun." 

* "In those days," says the Memorandum before me, "advocates were 
not so plenty at least about Liddesdale;" and the worthy Sheriff- 
substitute goes on to describe the sort of bustle, not unmixed with alarm, 
produced at the first farmhouse they visited (Willie Elliot's at Millburn- 
holm), when the honest man was informed of the quality of one of his 
guests. When they dismounted, accordingly, he received Mr. Scott with 
great ceremony, and insisted upon himself leading his horse to the 
stable. Shortreed accompanied Willie, however; and the latter, after 
taking a deliberate peep at Scott, "out-by the edge of the door-cheek," 
whispered, "Weel, Robin, I say, de'il hae me if I's be a bit feared for him 
now; he's just a chield like ourselves, I think." Half-a-dozen dogs of all 
degrees had already gathered round "the advocate," and his way of re- 
turning their compliments had set Willie Elliot at once at his ease. 

'According to Mr. Shortreed, this good man of Millburnholm was the 
great original of Dandie Dinmont.' * * * 'They dined at Millburnholm; 
and, after having lingered over Willie Elliot's punchbowl, until, in Mr. 
Shortreed's phrase, they were "half-glowrin'," mounted their steeds 
again, and proceeded to Dr. Elliot's at Cleughhead, where ("for," says 
my Memorandum, "folk werena very nice in those days") the two 
travellers slept in one and the same bed, as, indeed, seems to have been 
the case with them throughout most of their excursions in this primitive 
district. Dr. Elliot (a clergyman) had already a large MS. collection of 
the ballads Scott was in quest of.' * * * 'Next morning they seem to 
have ridden a long way for the express purpose of visiting one "auld 
Thomas o' Tuzzilehope," another Elliot, I suppose, who was celebrated 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 415 

for his skill on the Border pipe, and in particular for being in possession 
of the real lilt 3 of Dic\ o the Cowe. Before starting, that is, at six 
o'clock, the ballad-hunters had, "just to lay the stomach, a devilled duck 
or twae and some London porter." Auld Thomas found them, neverthe- 
less, well disposed for "breakfast" on their arrival at Tuzzilehope; and 
this being over, he delighted them with one of the most hideous and 
unearthly of all specimens of "riding music," and, moreover, with con- 
siderable libations of whisky-punch, manufactured in a certain wooden 
vessel, resembling a very small milkpail, which he called "Wisdom," be- 
cause it "made" only a few spoonfuls of spirits, though he had the art 
of replenishing it so adroitly, that it had been celebrated for fifty years 
as more fatal to sobriety than any bowl in the parish. Having done due 
honour to "Wisdom," they again mounted, and proceeded over moss 
and moor to some other equally hospitable master of the pipe. "Ah me," 
says Shortreed, "sic an endless fund o' humour and drollery as he then 
had wi' him! Never ten yards but we were either laughing or roaring 
and singing. Wherever we stopped, how brawlie he suited himsell to 
everybody! He aye did as the lave did; never made himsell the great 
man, or took ony airs in the company. I've seen him in a' moods in these 
jaunts, grave and gay, daft and serious, sober and drunk (this, however, 
even in our wildest rambles, was rare) but, drunk or sober, he was aye 
the gentleman. He lookit excessively heavy and stupid when he was jou, 
but he was never out o' gude humour." ' 

These are questionable doings, questionably narrated; but what 
shall we say of the following, wherein the element of whisky plays 
an extremely prominent part? We will say that it is questionable, 
and not exemplary, whisky mounting clearly beyond its level; that 
indeed charity hopes and conjectures here may be some aggravating 
of features for effect's sake! 

'On reaching, one evening, some Charlieshope or other (I forget the 
name) among those wildernesses, they found a kindly reception, as 
usual; but, to their agreeable surprise after some days of hard living, a 
measured and orderly hospitality as respected liquor. Soon after supper, 
at which a bottle of elderberry-wine alone had been produced, a young 
student of divinity, who happened to be in the house, was called upon 
to take the "big ha' Bible," in the good old fashion of Burns's "Saturday 
Night"; and some progress had been already made in the service, when 
the good-man of the farm, whose "tendency," as Mr. Mitchell says, "was 
soporific," scandalised his wife and the dominie by starting suddenly 
from his knees, and, rubbing his eyes, with a stentorian exclamation of 

"By , here's the keg at last!" and in tumbled, as he spoke the word, 

3 Loud tune: German, lallen. 



416 THOMAS CARLYLE 

a couple of sturdy herdsmen, whom, on hearing a day before of the 
advocate's approaching visit, he had despatched to a certain smuggler's 
haunt, at some considerable distance, in quest of a supply of run brandy 
from the Solway Frith. The pious "exercise" of the household was hope- 
lessly interrupted. With a thousand apologies for his hitherto shabby 
entertainment, this jolly Elliot, or Armstrong, had the welcome \eg 
mounted on the table without a moment's delay; and gentle and simple, 
not forgetting the dominie, continued carousing about it until daylight 
streamed-in upon the party. Sir Walter Scott seldom failed, when I saw 
him in company with his Liddesdale companion, to mimic with infinite 
humour the sudden outburst of his old host on hearing the clatter of 
horses' feet, which he knew to indicate the arrival of the keg the con- 
sternation of the dame and the rueful despair with which the young 
clergyman closed the book.' 4 

From which Liddesdale raids, which we here, like the young 
clergyman, close not without a certain rueful despair, let the reader 
draw what nourishment he can. They evince satisfactorily, though 
in a rude manner, that in those days young advocates, and Scott 
like the rest of them, were alive and alert, whisky sometimes pre- 
ponderating. But let us now fancy that the jovial young Advocate 
has pleaded his first cause; has served in yeomanry drills; been 
wedded, been promoted Sheriff, without romance in either case; dab- 
bling a little the while, under guidance of Monk Lewis, in transla- 
tions from the German, in translation of Goethe's Gotz with the 
Iron Hand; and we have arrived at the threshold of the Minstrelsy 
of the Scottish Border, and the opening of a new century. 

Hitherto, therefore, there has been made out, by Nature and Cir- 
cumstance working together, nothing unusually remarkable, yet 
still something very valuable; a stout effectual man of thirty, full 
of broad sagacity and good humour, with faculties in him fit for 
any burden of business, hospitality and duty, legal or civic: with 
what other faculties in him no one could yet say. As indeed, who, 
after lifelong inspection, can say what is in any man? The uttered 
part of a man's life, let us always repeat, bears to the unuttered un- 
conscious part a small unknown proportion; he himself never knows 
it, much less do others. Give him room, give him impulse; he 
reaches down to the Infinite with that so straitly-imprisoned soul 
4 Vol. i. pp. 1 95-i99 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 417 

of his; and can do miracles if need be! It is one of the comfortablest 
truths that great men abound, though in the unknown state. Nay, 
as above hinted, our greatest, being also by nature our quietest, are 
perhaps those that remain unknown! Philosopher Fichte took com- 
fort in this belief, when from all pulpits and editorial desks, and 
publications periodical and stationary, he could hear nothing but 
the infinite chattering and twittering of commonplace become am- 
bitious; and in the infinite stir of motion nowhither, and of din which 
should have been silence, all seemed churned into one tempestuous 
yeasty froth, and the stern Fichte almost desired 'taxes on knowl- 
edge' to allay it a little; he comforted himself, we say, by the un- 
shaken belief that Thought did still exist in Germany; that thinking 
men, each in his own corner, were verily doing their work, though 
in a silent manner. 5 

Walter Scott, as a latent Walter, had never amused all men for 
a score of years in the course of centuries and eternities, or gained 
and lost several hundred thousand pounds sterling by Literature; 
but he might have been a happy and by no means a useless, nay, 
who knows at bottom whether not a still usefuler Walter! How- 
ever, that was not his fortune. The Genius of rather a singular age, 
an age at once destitute of faith and terrified at scepticism, with 
little knowledge of its whereabout, with many sorrows to bear or 
front, and on the whole with a life to lead in these new circum- 
stances, had said to himself: What man shall be the temporary 
comforter, or were it but the spiritual comfit-maker, of this my 
poor singular age, to solace its dead tedium and manifold sorrows 
a little? So had the Genius said, looking over all the world, What 
man? and found him walking the dusty Outer Parliament-house 
of Edinburgh, with his advocate-gown on his back; and exclaimed, 
That is he! 

The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border proved to be a well from 
which flowed one of the broadest rivers. Metrical Romances (which 
in due time pass into Prose Romances) ; the old life of men resus- 
citated for us: it is a mighty word! Not as dead tradition, but as a 
palpable presence, the past stood before us. There they were, the 

5 Fichte, Uber das \Vescn des Gelehrten. 



41 8 THOMAS CARLYLE 

rugged old fighting men; in their doughty simplicity and strength, 
with their heartiness, their healthiness, their stout self-help, in their 
iron basnets, leather jerkins, jack-boots, in their quaintness of man- 
ner and costume; there as they looked and lived: it was like a new- 
discovered continent in Literature; for the new century, a bright 
El Dorado, or else some fat beatific land of Cockaigne, and Para- 
dise of Donothings. To the opening nineteenth century, in its lan- 
guor and paralysis, nothing could have been welcomer. Most unex- 
pected, most refreshing and exhilarating; behold our new El Do- 
rado; our fat beatific Lubberland, where one can enjoy and do 
nothing! It was the time for such a new Literature; and this Walter 
Scott was the man for it. The Lays, the Marmions, the Ladys and 
Lords of Lake and Isles, followed in quick succession, with ever- 
widening profit and praise. How many thousands of guineas were 
paid-down for each new Lay; how many thousands of copies (fifty 
and more sometimes) were printed off, then and subsequently; 
what complimenting, reviewing, renown and apotheosis there was: 
all is recorded in these Seven Volumes, which will be valuable in 
literary statistics. It is a history, brilliant, remarkable; the outlines 
of which are known to all. The reader shall recall it, or conceive it. 
No blaze in his fancy is likely to mount higher than the reality did. 
At this middle period of his life, therefore, Scott, enriched with 
copyrights, with new official incomes and promotions, rich in money, 
rich in repute, presents himself as a man in the full career of suc- 
cess. 'Health, wealth, and wit to guide them' (as his vernacular 
Proverb says), all these three are his. The field is open for him, 
and victory there; his own faculty, his own self, unshackled, vic- 
toriously unfolds itself, the highest blessedness that can befall a 
man. Wide circle of friends, personal loving admirers; warmth of 
domestic joys, vouchsafed to all that can true-heartedly nestle down 
among them; light of radiance and renown given only to a few: 
who would not call Scott happy ? But the happiest circumstance of 
all is, as we said above, that Scott had in himself a right healthy 
soul, rendering him little dependent on outward circumstances. 
Things showed themselves to him not in distortion or borrowed 
light or gloom, but as they were. Endeavour lay in him and endur- 
ance, in due measure; and clear vision of what was to be endeav- 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 419 

cured after. Were one to preach a Sermon on Health, as really were 
worth doing, Scott ought to be the text. Theories are demonstrably 
true in the way of logic; and then in the way of practice they prove 
true or else not true: but here is the grand experiment, Do they 
turn-out well? What boots it that a man's creed is the wisest, that 
his system of principles is the superfinest, if, when set to work, the 
life of him does nothing but jar, and fret itself into holes? They are 
untrue in that, were it in nothing else, these principles of his; openly 
convicted of untruth; fit only, shall we say, to be rejected as coun- 
terfeits, and flung to the dogs? We say not that; but we do say, 
that ill-health, of body or of mind, is defeat, is battle (in a good or 
in a bad cause) with bad success; that health alone is victory. Let 
all men, if they can manage it, contrive to be healthy! He who in 
what cause soever sinks into pain and disease, let him take thought 
of it; let him know well that it is not good he has arrived at yet, but 
surely evil, may, or may not be, on the way towards good. 

Scott's healthiness showed itself decisively in all things, and no- 
where more decisively than in this: the way in which he took his 
fame; the estimate he from the first formed of fame. Money will 
buy money's worth; but the thing men call fame, what is it? A 
gaudy emblazonry, not good for much, except, indeed, as it too 
may turn to money. To Scott it was a profitable pleasing super- 
fluity, no necessary of life. Not necessary, now or ever! Seemingly 
without much effort, but taught by Nature, and the instinct which 
instructs the sound heart what is good for it and what is not, he 
felt that he could always do without this same emblazonry of repu- 
tation; that he ought to put no trust in it; but be ready at any time 
to see it pass away from him, and to hold on his way as before. It 
is incalculable, as we conjecture, what evil he escaped in this man- 
ner; what perversions, irritations, mean agonies without a name, 
he lived wholly apart from, knew nothing of. Happily before fame 
arrived, he had reached the mature age at which all this was easier 
to him. What a strange Nemesis lurks in the felicities of men! In 
thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey, in thy belly it shall be bitter 
as gall! Some weakly-organised individual, we will say at the age 
of five-and-twenty, whose main or whole talent rests on some 
prurient susceptivity, and nothing under it but shallowness and 



42O THOMAS CARLYLE 

vacuum, is clutched hold of by the general imagination, is whirled 
aloft to the giddy height; and taught to believe the divine-seeming 
message that he is a great man: such individual seems the luckiest 
of men : arid, alas, is he not the unluckiest ? Swallow not the Circe- 
draught, O weakly-organised individual; it is fell poison; it will dry 
up the fountains of thy whole existence, and all will grow withered 
and parched; thou shalt be wretched under the sun! 

Is there, for example, a sadder book than that Life of Byron by 
Moore? To omit mere prurient susceptivities that rest on vaccum, 
look at poor Byron, who really had much substance in him. Sitting 
there in his self-exile, with a proud heart striving to persuade itself 
that it despises the entire created Universe; and far off, in foggy 
Babylon, let any pitifulest whipster draw pen on him, your proud 
Byron writhes in torture, as if the pitiful whipster were a ma- 
gician, or his pen a galvanic wire struck into the Byron's spinal 
marrow! Lamentable, despicable, one had rather be a kitten and 
cry mew! O son of Adam, great or little, according as thou art 
lovable, those thou livest with will love thee. Those thou livest not 
with, is it of moment that they have the alphabetic letters of thy name 
engraved on their memory, with some signpost likeness of thee (as 
like as I to Hercules) appended to them? It is not of moment; in 
sober truth, not of any moment at all! And yet, behold, there is no 
soul now whom thou canst love freely, from one soul only art thou 
always sure of reverence enough; in presence of no soul is it rightly 
well with thee! How is thy world become desert; and thou, for the 
sake of a little babblement of tongues, art poor, bankrupt, insolvent 
not in purse, but in heart and mind! 'The Golden Calf of self-love,' 
says Jean Paul, 'has grown into a burning Phalaris' Bull, to consume 
its owner and worshipper.' Ambition, the desire of shining and 
outshining, was the beginning of Sin in this world. The man of 
letters who founds upon his fame, does he not thereby alone declare 
himself a follower of Lucifer (named Satan, the Enemy), and 
member of the Satanic school? 

It was in this poetic period that Scott formed his connexion with 
the Ballantynes; and embarked, though under cover, largely in 
trade. To those who regard him in the heroic light, and will have 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 421 

Vates to signify Prophet as well as Poet, this portion of his biography 
seems somewhat incongruous. Viewed as it stood in the reality, as 
he was and as it was, the enterprise, since it proved so unfortunate, 
may be called lamentable, but cannot be called unnatural. The prac- 
tical Scott, looking towards practical issues in all things, could not but 
find hard cash one of the most practical. If by any means cash could 
be honestly produced, were it by writing poems, were it by printing 
them, why not? Great things might be done ultimately; great diffi- 
culties were at once got rid of, manifold higglings of booksellers, 
and contradictions of sinners hereby fell away. A printing and book- 
selling speculation was not so alien for a maker of books. Voltaire, 
who indeed got no copyrights, made much money by the war-com- 
missariat, in his time; we believe, by the victualling branch of it. 
St. George himself, they say, was a dealer in bacon in Cappadocia. 
A thrifty man will help himself towards his object by such steps 
as lead to it. Station in society, solid power over the good things of 
this world, was Scott's avowed object; towards which the precept of 
precepts is that of lago, Put money in thy purse. 

Here, indeed, it is to be remarked, that perhaps no literary man 
of any generation has less value than Scott for the immaterial part 
of his mission in any sense: not only for the fantasy called fame, 
with the fantastic miseries attendant thereon; but also for the spir- 
itual purport of his work, whether it tended hitherward or thither- 
ward, or had any tendency whatever; and indeed for all purports 
and results of his working, except such, we may say, as offered them- 
selves to the eye, and could, in one sense or the other, be handled, 
looked at and buttoned into the breeches-pocket. Somewhat too 
little of a fantast, this Vates of ours! But so it was: in this nineteenth 
century, our highest literary man, who immeasurably beyond all 
others commanded the world's ear, had, as it were, no message 
whatever to deliver to the world; wished not the world to elevate 
itself, to amend itself, to do this or to do that, except simply pay 
him for the books he kept writing. Very remarkable; fittest, perhaps, 
for an age fallen languid, destitute of faith and terrified at scepti- 
cism ? Or, perhaps, for quite another sort of age, an age all in peace- 
able triumphant motion ? Be this as it may, surely since Shakspeare's 
time there has been no great speaker so unconscious of an aim in 



422 THOMAS CARLYLE 

speaking as Walter Scott. Equally unconscious these two utterances: 
equally the sincere complete products of the minds they came from : 
and now if they were equally deep? Or, if the one was living fire, 
and the other was futile phosphorescence and mere resinous fire- 
work? It will depend on the relative worth of the minds; for both 
were equally spontaneous, both equally expressed themselves unen- 
cumbered by an ulterior aim. Beyond drawing audiences to the 
Globe Theatre, Shakspeare contemplated no result in those plays 
of his. Yet they have had results! Utter with free heart what thy 
own dcemon gives thee: if fire from heaven, it shall be well; if 
resinous firework, it shall be as well as it could be, or better than 
otherwise! 

The candid judge will, in general, require that a speaker, in so 
extremely serious a Universe as this of ours, have something to speak 
about. In the heart of the speaker there ought to be some kind of 
gospel-tidings, burning till it be uttered; otherwise it were better 
for him that he altogether held his peace. A gospel somewhat more 
decisive than this of Scott's, except to an age altogether languid, 
without either scepticism or faith! These things the candid judge 
will demand of literary men; yet withal will recognise the great 
worth there is in Scott's honesty if in nothing more, in his being the 
thing he was with such entire good faith. Here is a something, not 
a nothing. If no skyborn messenger, heaven looking through his eyes; 
then neither is it a chimera with his systems, crotchets, cants, fanati- 
cisms, and 'last infirmity of noble minds,' full of misery, unrest 
and ill-will; but a substantial, peaceable, terrestrial man. Far as the 
Earth is under the Heaven does Scott stand below the former sort 
of character; but high as the cheerful flowery Earth is above waste 
Tartarus does he stand above the latter. Let him live in his own 
fashion, and do honour to him in that. 

It were late in the day to write criticisms on those Metrical Ro- 
mances : at the same time, we may remark, the great popularity they 
had seems natural enough. In the first place, there was the indis- 
putable impress of worth, of genuine human force, in them. This, 
which lies in some degree, or is thought to lie, at the bottom of all 
popularity, did to an unusual degree disclose itself in these rhymed 
romances of Scott's. Pictures were actually painted and presented; 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 423 

human emotions conceived and sympathised with. Considering 
what wretched Della-Cruscan and other vamping-up of old worn- 
out tatters was the staple article then, it may be granted that Scott's 
excellence was superior and supreme. When a Hayley was the main 
singer, a Scott might well be hailed with warm welcome. Consider 
whether the Loves of the Plants, and even the Loves of the Tri- 
angles, could be worth the loves and hates of men and women! 
Scott was as preferable to what he displaced, as the substance is to 
wearisomely repeated shadow of a substance. 

But, in the second place, we may say that the bind of worth which 
Scott manifested was fitted especially for the then temper of men. 
We have called it an age fallen into spiritual languor, destitute of 
belief, yet terrified at Scepticism; reduced to live a stinted half-life, 
under strange new circumstances. Now vigorous whole-life, this 
was what of all things these delineations offered. The reader was 
carried back to rough strong times, wherein those maladies of ours 
had not yet arisen. Brawny fighters, all cased in buff and iron, their 
hearts too sheathed in oak and triple brass, caprioled their huge war- 
horses, shook their death-doing spears; and went forth in the most 
determined manner, nothing doubting. The reader sighed, yet not 
without a reflex solacement: "O, that I too had lived in those 
times, had never known these logic-cobwebs, this doubt, this sickli- 
ness; and been and felt myself alive among men alive!" Add lastly, 
that in this new-found poetic world there was no call for effort on 
the reader's part; what excellence they had, exhibited itself at a 
glance. It was for the reader, not the El Dorado only, but a beatific 
land of Cockaigne and Paradise of Donothings! The reader, what 
the vast majority of readers so long to do, was allowed to lie down 
at his ease, and be ministered to. What the Turkish bathkeeper is 
said to aim at with his frictions, and shampooings, and fomentings, 
more or less effectually, that the patient in total idleness may have 
the delights of activity, was here to a considerable extent realised. 
The languid imagination fell back into its rest; an artist was there 
who could supply it with high-painted scenes, with sequences of 
stirring action, and whisper to it, Be at ease, and let thy tepid element 
be comfortable to thee. 'The rude man,' says a critic, 'requires only 
to see something going on. The man of more refinement must be 



424 THOMAS CARLYLE 

made to feel. The man of complete refinement must be made to 
reflect.' 

We named the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border the fountain from 
which flowed this great river of Metrical Romances; but according 
to some they can be traced to a still higher, obscurer spring; to 
Goethe's Gotz von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand; of which, as 
we have seen, Scott in his earlier days executed a translation. Dated 
a good many years ago, the following words in a criticism on Goethe 
are found written; which probably are still new to most readers of 
this Review: 

The works just mentioned, Gotz and Werter, though noble specimens 
of youthful talent, are still not so much distinguished by their intrinsic 
merits as by their splendid fortune. It would be difficult to name two 
books which have exercised a deeper influence on the subsequent litera- 
ture of Europe than these two performances of a young author; his first- 
fruits, the produce of his twenty-fourth year. Werter appeared to seize 
the hearts of men in all quarters of the world, and to utter for them the 
word which they had long been waiting to hear. As usually happens 
too, this same word, once uttered, was soon abundantly repeated; spoken 
in all dialects, and chanted through all notes of the gamut, till the sound 
of it had grown a weariness rather than a pleasure. Sceptical senti- 
mentality, view-hunting, love, friendship, suicide and desperation, be- 
came the staple of literary ware; and though the epidemic, after a long 
course of years, subsided in Germany, it reappeared with various modi- 
fications in other countries, and everywhere abundant traces of its good 
and bad effects are still to be discerned. The fortune of Berlichingen 
with the Iron Hand, though less sudden, was by no means less exalted. 
In his own country, Gotz, though he now stands solitary and childless, 
became the parent of an innumerable progeny of chivalry plays, feudal 
delineations, and poetico-antiquarian performances; which, though long 
ago deceased, made noise enough in their day and generation: and with 
ourselves his influence has been perhaps still more remarkable. Sir Walter 
Scott's first literary enterprise was a translation of Gotz von Berlichingen: 
and, if genius could be communicated like instruction, we might call 
this work of Goethe's the prime cause of Marmion and the Lady of the 
Lal^e, with all that has followed from the same creative hand. Truly, 
a grain of seed that has lighted in the right soil! For if not firmer and 
fairer, it has grown to be taller and broader than any other tree; and all 
the nations of the earth are still yearly gathering of its fruit.' 

How far Gotz von Berlichingen actually affected Scott's literary 
destination, and whether without it the rhymed romances, and then 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 425 

the prose romances of the Author of Waverley, would not have fol- 
lowed as they did, must remain a very obscure question; obscure and 
not important. Of the fact, however, there is no doubt, that these 
two tendencies, which may be named Gotzism and Werterism, of 
the former of which Scott was representative with us, have made, 
and are still in some quarters making the tour of all Europe. In 
Germany too there was this affectionate half-regretful looking-back 
into the Past; Germany had its buff-belted watch-tower period in 
literature, and had even got done with it before Scott began. Then 
as to Werterism., had not we English our Byron and his genus ? No 
form of Werterism in any other country had half the potency; as 
our Scott carried Chivalry Literature to the ends of the world, so 
did our Byron Werterism. France, busy with its Revolution and 
Napoleon, had little leisure at the moment for Gotzism or Werter- 
ism; but it has had them both since, in a shape of its own: witness 
the whole 'Literature of Desperation' in our own days; the beggar- 
liest form of Werterism yet seen, probably its expiring final form: 
witness also, at the other extremity of the scale, a noble-gifted 
Chateaubriand, Gotz and Werter both in one. Curious: how all 
Europe is but like a set of parishes of the same county; participant 
of the self-same influences, ever since the Crusades, and earlier; 
and these glorious wars of ours are but like parish-brawls, which 
begin in mutual ignorance, intoxication and boastful speech; which 
end in broken windows, damage, waste and bloody noses; and which 
one hopes the general good sense is now in the way towards putting 
down, in some measure! 

But leaving this to be as it can, what it concerned us here to 
remark, was that British Werterism, in the shape of those Byron 
Poems, so potent and poignant, produced on the languid appetite of 
men a mighty effect. This too was a 'class of feelings deeply impor- 
tant to modern minds; feelings which arise from passion incapable 
of being converted into action, which belong to an age as indolent, 
cultivated and unbelieving as our own'! The 'languid age without 
either faith or scepticism' turned towards Byronism with an interest 
altogether peculiar: here, if no cure for its miserable paralysis and 
languor, was at least an indignant statement of the misery; an indig- 
nant Ernulphus' curse read over it, which all men felt to be some- 



426 THOMAS CARLYLE 

thing. Half-regretful lockings in the Past gave place, in many 
quarters, to Ernulphus' cursings of the Present. Scott was among 
the first to perceive that the day of Metrical Chivalry Romances was 
declining. He had held the sovereignty for some half-score of 
years, a comparatively long lease of it; and now the time seemed 
come for dethronement, for abdication: an unpleasant business; 
which however he held himself ready, as a brave man will, to 
transact with composure and in silence. After all, Poetry was not 
his staff of life; Poetry had already yielded him much money; this 
at least it would not take back from him. Busy always with edit- 
ing, with compiling, with multiplex official commercial business, 
and solid interests, he beheld the coming change with unmoved 
eye. 

Resignation he was prepared to exhibit in this matter; and now 
behold there proved to be no need of resignation. Let the Metrical 
Romance become a Prose one; shake off its rhyme-fetters, and try 
a wider sweep! In the spring of 1814 appeared Waverley; an event 
memorable in the annals of British Literature; in the annals of 
British Bookselling thrice and four times memorable. Byron sang, 
but Scott narrated; and when the song had sung itself out through 
all variations onwards to the Don Juan one, Scott was still found 
narrating, and carrying the whole world along with him. All by- 
gone popularity of chivalry-lays was swallowed up in a far greater. 
What 'series' followed out of Waverley, and how and with what 
result, is known to all men; was witnessed and watched with a kind 
of rapt astonishment by all. Hardly any literary reputation ever rose 
so high in our Island; no reputation at all ever spread so wide. 
Walter Scott became Sir Walter Scott, Baronet, of Abbotsford; on 
whom Fortune seemed to pour her whole cornucopia of wealth, 
honour and worldly goods; the favourite of Princes and of Peasants, 
and all intermediate men. His 'Waverley series,' swift-following one 
on the other apparently without end, was the universal reading; 
looked for like an annual harvest, by all ranks, in all European 
countries. 

A curious circumstance superadded itself, that the author though 
known was unknown. From the first most people suspected, and 
soon after the first, few intelligent persons much doubted, that the 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 427 

Author of Waverley was Walter Scott. Yet a certain mystery was 
still kept up; rather piquant to the public; doubtless very pleasant 
to the author, who saw it all; who probably had not to listen, as 
other hapless individuals often had, to this or the other long-drawn 
'clear proof at last,' that the author was not Walter Scott, but a certain 
astonishing Mr. So-and-so; one of the standing miseries of human 
life in that time. But for the privileged Author it was like a king 
travelling incognito. All men know that he is a high king, chival- 
rous Gustaf or Kaiser Joseph; but he mingles in their meetings 
without cumber of etiquette or lonesome ceremony, as Chevalier du 
Nord, or Count of Lorraine: he has none of the weariness of roy- 
alty, and yet all the praise, and the satisfaction of hearing it with 
his own ears. In a word, the Waverley Novels circulated and 
reigned triumphant; to the general imagination the * Author of 
Waverley' was like some living mythological personage, and ranked 
among the chief wonders of the world. 

How a man lived and demeaned himself in such unwonted cir- 
cumstances, is worth seeing. We would gladly quote from Scott's 
correspondence of this period; but that does not much illustrate the 
matter. His letters, as above stated, are never without interest, yet 
also seldom or never very interesting. They are full of cheerfulness, 
of wit and ingenuity; but they do not treat of aught intimate; 
without impeaching their sincerity, what is called sincerity, one 
may say they do not, in any case whatever, proceed from the inner- 
most parts of the mind. Conventional forms, due consideration of 
your own and your correspondents' pretensions and vanities, are at 
no moment left out of view. The epistolary stream runs on, lucid, 
free, gladflowing; but always, as it were, parallel to the real sub- 
stance of the matter, never coincident with it. One feels it hollowish 
under foot. Letters they are of a most humane man of the world, 
even exemplary in that kind; but with the man of the world always 
visible in them; as indeed it was little in Scott's way to speak, 
perhaps even with himself, in any other fashion. We select rather 
some glimpses of him from Mr. Lockhart's record. The first is of 
dining with Royalty or Prince-Regentship itself; an almost official 
matter : 



428 THOMAS CARLYLE 

'On hearing from Mr. Croker (then Secretary to the Admiralty) that 
Scott was to be in town by the middle of March (1815), the Prince said, 
"Let me know when he comes, and I'll get-up a snug little dinner that 
will suit him;" and after he had been presented and graciously received 
at the levee, he was invited to dinner accordingly, through his excellent 
friend Mr. Adam (now Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court in 
Scotland), who at that time held a confidential office in the royal house- 
hold. The Regent had consulted with Mr. Adam, also, as to the com- 
position of the party. "Let us have," said he, "just a few friends of his 
own, and the more Scotch the better;" and both the Commissioner and 
Mr. Croker assure me that the party was the most interesting and agree- 
able one in their recollection. It comprised, I believe, the Duke of York 
the Duke of Gordon (then Marquess of Huntly) the Marquess of 
Hertford (then Lord Yarmouth) the Earl of Fife and Scott's early 
friend, Lord Melville. "The Prince and Scott," says Mr. Croker, "were 
the two most brilliant story-tellers, in their several ways, that I have ever 
happened to meet; they were both aware of their forte, and both exerted 
themselves that evening with delightful effect. On going home, I really 
could not decide which of them had shone the most. The Regent was 
enchanted with Scott, as Scott with him; and on all his subsequent visits 
to London, he was a frequent guest at the royal table." The Lord Chief 
Commissioner remembers that the Prince was particularly delighted with 
the poet's anecdotes of the old Scotch judges and lawyers, which his 
Royal Highness sometimes capped by ludicrous traits of certain ermine 
sages of his own acquaintance. Scott told, among others, a story, which 
he was fond of telling, of his old friend the Lord Justice-Clerk Braxfield; 
and the commentary of his Royal Highness on hearing it amused Scott, 
who often mentioned it afterwards. The anecdote is this: Braxfield, 
whenever he went on a particular circuit was in the habit of visiting 
a gentleman of good fortune in the neighbourhood of one of the assize 
towns, and staying at least one night, which, being both of them ardent 
chess-players, they usually concluded with their favourite game. One 
Spring circuit the battle was not decided at daybreak; so the Justice- 
Clerk said, "Weel, Donald, I must e'en come back this gate, and let the 
game lie ower for the present:" and back he came in October, but not to 
his old friend's hospitable house; for that gentleman had in the interim 
been apprehended on a capital charge (of forgery), and his name stood 
on the Porteous Roll, or list of those who were about to be tried under 
his former guest's auspices. The laird was indicted and tried accord- 
ingly, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Braxfield forthwith put 
on his cocked hat (which answers to the black cap in England), and 
pronounced the sentence of the law in the usual terms "To be hanged 
by the neck until you be dead; and may the Lord have mercy upon your 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 429 

unhappy soul!" Having concluded this awful formula in his most 
sonorous cadence, Braxfield, dismounting his formidable beaver, gave a 
familiar nod to his unfortunate acquaintance, and said to him in a sort 
of chuckling whisper, "And now, Donald my man, I think I've check- 
mated you for ance." The Regent laughed heartily at this specimen of 
Macqueen's brutal humour; and 'T faith, Walter," said he, "this old 
big-wig seems to have taken things as coolly as my tyrannical self. Don't 
you remember Tom Moore's description of me at breakfast 

"The table spread with tea and toast, 
Death-warrants and the Morning Post?" 

'Towards midnight the Prince called for "a bumper, with all the 
honours, to the Author of Waverley"; and looked significantly, as he 
was charging his own glass, to Scott. Scott seemed somewhat puzzled 
for a moment, but instantly recovering himself, and filling his glass to 
the brim, said, "Your Royal Highness looks as if you thought I had 
some claim to the honours of this toast. I have no such pretensions; but 
shall take good care that the real Simon Pure hears of the high compli- 
ment that has now been paid him." He then drank-off his claret; and 
joined with a stentorian voice in the cheering, which the Prince himself 
timed. But before the company could resume their seats, his Royal 
Highness, "Another of the same, if you please, to the Author of Mar- 
mion, and now, Walter my man, I have checkmated you for ance" 
The second bumper was followed by cheers still more prolonged: and 
Scott then rose, and returned thanks in a short address, which struck the 
Lord Chief Commissioner as "alike grave and graceful." This story has 
been circulated in a very perverted shape.' * * * 'Before he left town he 
again dined at Carlton House, when the party was a still smaller one 
than before, and the merriment if possible still more free. That nothing 
might be wanting, the Prince sang several capital songs.' 6 

Or take, at a very great interval in many senses, this glimpse of 
another dinner, altogether ^officially and much better described. 
It is James Ballantyne the printer and publisher's dinner, in St. John 
Street, Canongate, Edinburgh, on the birth-eve of a Waverley 
Novel: 

'The feast was, to use one of James's own favourite epithets, gorgeous; 
an aldermanic display of turtle and venison, with the suitable accompani- 
ments of iced punch, potent ale, and generous Madeira. When the cloth 
was drawn, the burly praeses arose, with all he could master of the port 
6 Vol. iii. pp. 340-343. 



43 THOMAS CARLYLE 

of John Kemble, and spouted with a sonorous voice the formula o 
Macbeth, 

"Fill full! 
I drink to the general joy of the whole table!" 

This was followed by "the King, God bless him!" and second came 
"Gentlemen, there is another toast which never has been nor shall be 
omitted in this house of mine: I give you the health of Mr. Walter Scott, 
with three times three!" All honour having been done to this health, 
and Scott having briefly thanked the company, with some expressions of 
warm affection to their host, Mrs. Ballantyne retired; the bottles passed 
round twice or thrice in the usual way; and then James rose once more, 
every vein on his brow distended; his eyes solemnly fixed on vacancy, to 
propose, not as before in his stentorian key, but with " 'bated breath," in 
the sort of whisper by which a stage-conspirator thrills the gallery, 
"Gentlemen, a bumper to the immortal Author of Waverley!" The up- 
roar of cheering, in which Scott made a fashion of joining, was succeeded 
by deep silence; and then Ballantyne proceeded 

"In his Lord-Burleigh look, serene and serious, 
A something of imposing and mysterious" 

to lament the obscurity, in which his illustrious but too modest corre- 
spondent still chose to conceal himself from the plaudits of the world; 
to thank the company for the manner in which the nominis umbra had 
been received; and to assure them that the Author of Waverley would, 
when informed of the circumstance, feel highly delighted "the proudest 
hour of his life," etc., etc. The cool, demure fun of Scott's features 
during all this mummery was perfect; and Erskine's attempt at a gay 
nonchalance was still more ludicrously meritorious. Aldiborontiphos- 
cophornio, however, bursting as he was, knew too well to allow the new 
Novel to be made the subject of discussion. Its name was announced, 
and success to it crowned another cup; but after that, no more of Jede- 
diah. To cut the thread, he rolled out unbidden some one of his many 
theatrical songs, in a style that would have done no dishonour to almost 
any orchestra The Maid of Lodi, or perhaps The Bay of Biscay, O! 
or The sweet little cherub that sits up aloft.. Other toasts followed, 
interspersed with ditties from other performers; old George Thomson, 
the friend of Burns, was ready, for one, with The Moorland Wedding, or 
Willie brew'd a pecJ^ o' maut; and so it went on, until Scott and 
Erskine, with any clerical or very staid personage that had chanced to be 
admitted, saw fit to withdraw. Then the scene was changed. The claret 
and olives made way for broiled bones and a mighty bowl of punch; and 
when a few glasses of the hot beverage had restored his powers, James 
opened ore rotundo on the merits of the forthcoming Romance. "One 
chapter one chapter only!" was the cry. After "Nay by'r Lady, nay!" 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 431 

and a few more coy shifts, the proofs-sheets were at length produced, and 
James, with many a prefatory "hem," read aloud what he considered as 
the most striking dialogue they contained. 

The first I heard so read was the interview between Jeanie Deans, the 
Duke of Argyle and Queen Caroline, in Richmond Park; and, notwith- 
standing some spice of the pompous tricks to which he was addicted, I 
must say he did the inimitable scene great justice. At all events, the 
effect it produced was deep and memorable; and no wonder that the 
exulting typographer's one bumper more to Jedediah Cleishbotham pre- 
ceded his parting-stave, which was uniformly The Last Words of Mar- 
mion, executed certainly with no contemptible rivalry of Braham.' 7 

Over at Abbotsford things wear a still more prosperous aspect. 
Scott is building there, by the pleasant banks of the Tweed; he has 
bought and is buying land there; fast as the new gold comes in for 
a new Waverley Novel, or even faster, it changes itself into moory 
acres, into stone, and hewn or planted wood. 

* About the middle of February' (1820), says Mr. Lockhart, 'it having 
been ere that time arranged that I should marry his eldest daughter in 
the course of the spring, I accompanied him and part of his family 
on one of those flying visits to Abbotsford, with which he often indulged 
himself on a Saturday during term. Upon such occasions, Scott appeared 
at the usual hour in court, but wearing, instead of the official suit of 
black, his country morning-dress, green jacket and so forth, under the 
clerk's gown' 'At noon, when the Court broke up, Peter Mathieson was 
sure to be in attendance in the Parliament Close; and, five minutes after, 
the gown had been tossed off; and Scott, rubbing his hands for glee, was 
under weigh for Tweedside. As we proceeded,' etc. 

'Next morning there appeared at breakfast John Ballantyne, who had 
at this time a shooting or hunting-box a few miles off, in the vale of the 
Leader, and with him Mr. Constable, his guest; and it being a fine clear 
day, as soon as Scott had read the church-service and one of Jeremy 
Taylor's sermons, we all sallied out before noon on a perambulation of 
his upland territories; Maida (the hound) and the rest of the favourites 
accompanying our march. At starting we were joined by the constant 
henchman, Tom Purdie, and I may save myself the trouble of any 
attempt to describe his appearance, for his master has given us an in- 
imitably true one in introducing a certain personage of his Red- 
gauntlet: "He was, perhaps, sixty years old; yet his brow was not much 
furrowed, and his jet-black hair was only grizzled, not whitened, by the 
advance of age. All his motions spoke strength unabated; and, though 
rather undersized, he had very broad shoulders, was square-made, thin- 
7 Vol. iv. pp. 166-168. 



432 THOMAS CARLYLE 

flanked, and apparently combined in his frame muscular strength and 
activity; the last somewhat impaired, perhaps, by years, but the first 
remaining in full vigor. A hard and harsh countenance; eyes far sunk 
under projecting eyebrows, which were grizzled like his hair; a wide 
mouth, furnished from ear to ear with a range of unimpaired teeth 
of uncommon whiteness, and a size and breadth which might have be- 
come the jaws of an ogre, completed this delightful portrait." Equip this 
figure in Scott's cast-off green jacket, white hat and drab trousers; and 
imagine that years of kind treatment, comfort and the honest conse- 
quence of a confidential grieve* had softened away much of the hardness 
and harshness originally impressed on the visage by anxious penury, and 
the sinister habits of a blacJ^-fisher; and the Tom Purdie of 1820 stands 
before us. 

'We were all delighted to see how completely Scott had recovered his 
bodily vigour, and none more so than Constable, who, as he puffed and 
panted after him, up one ravine and down another, often stopped to 
wipe his forehead, and remarked, that "it was not every author who 
should lead him such a dance." But Purdie's face shone with rapture as 
he observed how severely the swag-bellied bookseller's activity was tasked. 
Scott exclaimed exultingly, though, perhaps, for the tenth time, "This 
will be a glorious spring for our trees, Tom!" "You may say that, 
Sheriff," quoth Tom, and then lingering a moment for Constable 
"My certy," he added, scratching his head, "and I think it will be a grand 
season for our builds too." But indeed Tom always talked of our bui\s, 
as if they had been as regular products of the soil as our alts and our 
bir\s. Having threaded first the Hexilcleugh and then the Rhymer's 
Glen, we arrived at Huntly Burn, where the hospitality of the kind 
Weird Sisters, as Scott called the Miss Fergusons, reanimated our ex- 
hausted bibliopoles, and gave them courage to extend their walk a little 
farther down the same famous brook. Here there was a small cottage in 
a very sequestered situation' (named Chief swood), 'by making some 
little additions to which Scott thought it might be converted into a 
suitable summer residence for his daughter and future son-in-law/ 
# * # <AS we W alked homeward, Scott being a little fatigued, laid his 
left hand on Tom's shoulder, and leaned heavily for support, chatting 
to his "Sunday pony," as he called the affectionate fellow, just as freely 
as with the rest of the party; and Tom put-in his word shrewdly and 
manfully, and grinned and grunted whenever the joke chanced to be 
within his apprehension. It was easy to see that his heart swelled within 
him from the moment the Sheriff got his collar in his gripe.' 9 

That Abbotsford became infested to a great degree with tourists, 
wonder-hunters, and all that fatal species of people, may be sup- 

8 Overseer; German, graf. 9 Vol. iv. pp. 349-353. 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 433 

posed. Solitary Ettrick saw itself populous: all paths were beaten 
with the feet and hoofs of an endless miscellany of pilgrims. As 
many as 'sixteen parties' have arrived at Abbotsford in one day; 
male and female; peers, Socinian preachers, whatsoever was distin- 
guished, whatsoever had love of distinction in it! Mr. Lockhart 
thinks there was no literary shrine ever so bepilgrimed, except Fer- 
ney in Voltaire's time, who, however, was not half so accessible. A 
fatal species! These are what Schiller calls the 'flesh-flies'; buzzing 
swarms of bluebottles, who never fail where any taint of human 
glory or other corruptibility is in the wind. So has Nature decreed. 
Scott's healthiness, bodily and mental, his massive solidity of char- 
acter, nowhere showed itself more decisively than in his manner 
of encountering this part of his fate. That his bluebottles were blue, 
and of the usual tone and quality, may be judged. Hear Captain 
Basil Hall (in a very compressed state) : 

'We arrived in good time, and found several other guests at dinner. 
The public rooms are lighted with oil-gas, in a style of extraordinary 
splendour. The' etc. 'Had I a hundred pens, each of which at the 
same time should separately write down an anecdote, I could not hope 
to record one half of those which our host, to use Spenser's expression, 
"welled out alway." ' 'Entertained us all the way with an endless string 
of anecdotes;' 'came like a stream of poetry from his lips;' 'path 
muddy and scarcely passable, yet I do not remember ever to have seen 
any place so interesting as the skill of this mighty magician had rendered 
this narrow ravine.' 'Impossible to touch on any theme, but straightway 
he has an anecdote to fit it.' 'Thus we strolled along, borne, as it were, 
on the stream of song and story.' 'In the evening we had a great feast 
indeed. Sir Walter asked us if we had ever read Christabel.' 'Inter- 
spersed with these various readings were some hundreds of stories, some 
quaint, some pathetical.' 'A breakfast today we had, as usual, some 150 
stories God knows how they came in.' 'In any man so gifted so 
qualified to take the loftiest, proudest line at the head of the literature, 
the taste, the imagination of the whole world!' 'For instance, he never 
sits at any particular place at table, but takes' etc. etc. 10 

Among such worshippers, arriving in 'sixteen parties a-day,' an 
ordinary man might have grown buoyant; have felt the god, begun 
to nod, and seemed to shake the spheres. A slightly splenetic man, 
possessed of Scott's sense, would have swept his premises clear of 

10 Vol. v. pp. 375-402. 



434 THOMAS CARLYLE 

them: Let no blue bottle approach here, to disturb a man in his 
work, under pain of sugared squash (called quassia) and king's 
yellow! The good Sir Walter, like a quiet brave man, did neither. 
He let the matter take its course; enjoyed what was enjoyable in it; 
endured what could not well be helped; persisted meanwhile in 
writing his daily portion of romance-copy, in preserving his com- 
posure of heart; in a word, accommodated himself to this loud- 
buzzing environment, and made it serve him, as he would have 
done (perhaps with more ease) to a silent, poor and solitary one. 
No doubt it affected him too, and in the lamentable way fevered 
his internal life, though he kept it well down; but it affected him 
less than it would have done almost any other man. For his guests 
were not all of the bluebottle sort; far from that. Mr. Lockhart 
shall furnish us with the brightest aspect a British Ferney ever 
yielded, or is like to yield: and therewith we will quit Abbotsford 
and the dominant and culminant period of Scott's life: 

'It was a clear, bright September morning, with a sharpness in the air 
that doubled the animating influence of the sunshine, and all was in 
readiness for a grand coursing-match on Newark Hill. The only guest 
who had chalked-out other sport for himself was the stanchest of anglers, 
Mr. Rose; but he too was there on his shelty, armed with his salmon-rod 
and landing-net, and attended by his Hinves, and Charlie Purdie, a 
brother of Tom, in those days the most celebrated fisherman of the 
district. This little group of Waltonians, bound for Lord Somerville's 
preserve, remained lounging about, to witness the start of the main 
cavalcade. Sir Walter, mounted on Sibyl, was marshalling the order of 
procession with a huge hunting-whip; and among a dozen frolicsome 
youths and maidens, who seemed disposed to laugh at all discipline, 
appeared, each on horseback, each as eager as the youngest sportsman in 
the troop, Sir Humphry Davy, Dr. Wollaston, and the patriarch of 
Scottish belles-lettres, Henry Mackenzie. The Man of Feeling, however, 
was persuaded with some difficulty to resign his steed for the present to 
his faithful negro follower, and to join Lady Scott in the sociable, until 
we should reach the ground of our battue. Laidlaw, on a strong-tailed 
wiry Highlander, yclept Hoddin Grey, which carried him nimbly and 
stoutly, although his feet almost touched the ground as he sat, was the 
adjutant. But the most picturesque figure was the illustrious inventor of 
the safety-lamp. He had come for his favourite sport of angling, and 
had been practising it successfully with Rose, his travelling companion, 
for two or three days preceding this; but he had not prepared for coursing 



SIR WALTER SCOTT 435 

fields, or had left Charlie Purdie's troop for Sir Walter's on a sudden 
thought, and his fisherman's costume a brown hat with flexible brim, 
surrounded with line upon line of catgut, and innumerable fly-hooks 
jack-boots worthy of a Dutch smuggler, and a fustian surtout dabbled 
with the blood of salmon, made a fine contrast with the smart jackets, 
white-cord breeches, and well-polished jockey-boots of the less distin- 
guished cavaliers about him. Dr. Wollaston was in black; and with his 
noble serene dignity of countenance might have passed for a sporting 
archbishop. Mr. Mackenzie, at this time in the 76th year of his age, 
with a white hat turned up with green, green spectacles, green jacket, and 
long brown leathern gaiters, buttoned upon his nether anatomy, wore a 
dog-whistle round his neck, and had, all over, the air of as resolute a 
devotee as the gay captain of Huntly Burn. Tom Purdie and his subal- 
terns had preceded us by a few hours with all the greyhounds that could 
be collected at Abbotsford, Darnick, and Melrose; but the giant Maida 
had remained as his master's orderly, and now gambolled about Sibyl 
Grey, barking for mere joy like a spaniel puppy. 

"The order of march had been all settled, and the sociable was just 
getting under weigh, when the Lady Anne broke from the line, scream- 
ing with laughter, and exclaimed, "Papa, papa, I knew you could never 
think of going without your pet!" Scott looked round, and I rather 
think there was a blush as well as a smile upon his face, when he per- 
ceived a little black pig frisking about his pony, and evidently a self- 
elected addition to the party of the day. He tried to look stern, and 
cracked his whip at the creature, but was in a moment obliged to join in 
the general cheers. Poor piggy soon found a strap round its neck, and was 
dragged into the background; Scott, watching the retreat, repeated 
with mock pathos the first verse of an old pastoral song 

"What will I do gin my hoggie die? 

My joy, my pride, my hoggie! 
My only beast, I had na mae, 
And wow! but I was vogie!" 

the cheers were redoubled and the squadron moved on. 

'This pig had taken, nobody could tell how, a most sentimental 
attachment to Scott, and was constantly urging its pretensions to be 
admitted a regular member of his tail along with the greyhounds and 
terriers: but, indeed, I remember him suffering another summer under 
the same sort of pertinacity on the part of an affectionate hen. I leave 
the explanation for philosophers; but such were the facts. I have too 
much respect for the vulgarly calumniated donkey, to name him in the 
same category of pets with the pig and the hen; but a year or two after 
this time, my wife used to drive a couple of these animals in a little 
garden-chair, and whenever her father appeared at the door of our cot- 



436 THOMAS CARLYLE 

tage, we were sure to see Hannah More and Lady Morgan (as Anne 
Scott had wickedly christened them) trotting from their pasture, to lay 
their noses over the paling, and, as Washington Irving says of the old 
white-haired hedger with the Parisian snuff-box, "to have a pleasant 
crack wi' the laird." n 

There' at Chiefswood 'my wife and I spent this summer and autumn 
of 1821; the first of several seasons which will ever dwell on my memory 
as the happiest of my life. We were near enough Abbotsford to partake 
as often as we liked of its brilliant and constantly varying society; yet 
could do so without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit 
which the daily reception of newcomers entailed upon all the famil